Suffolk: Fishermen head to London for judicial review hearing over quotas

A judicial review starts today over who controls the UK's fishing quotas

A judicial review starts today over who controls the UK's fishing quotas - Credit: PA

A GROUP of Suffolk fishermen are heading to London this morning for the first day of hearings that could have a huge impact on their future.

A judicial review is set to start at the High Court to decide who controls the UK’s fishing quota.

Three small scale fishermen from Aldeburgh, Felixstowe Ferry and Orford will join colleagues from around the English coast for a short demonstration.

The judicial review, which is expected to last three days, has been brought by the UK Association of Fish Producer Organisations (UKAFPO), which largely represents the biggest boats in the UK fleet and control more than 95% of the country’s fishing rights.

They are appealing against a decision by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) to reallocate the small amount (around 3%) of continually unused fishing quota held by producer organisations to small-scale fishermen, such as those in Suffolk who use vessels less than 10 metres in length.

Defra’s move is an attempt to throw a lifeline to local fishermen, who say they are facing increasing hardship having access to just a 4% share of the UK’s quota, despite making up over three quarters of Britain’s fishing fleet.

In challenging the government’s decision, UKAFPO is arguing that reallocating part of their share of the fishing quota is taking away their potential expected income. Campaigners claim this implies they regard quota as a private asset.

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Roger Hipwell, from Orford, who is one of those demonstrating today, said: “What this will determine is whether or not the quota is owned by the people its been allocated to. That’s why it’s an important judgement. It’s a test case as far as we’re concerned.”

He said they wanted to see the result go in favour of the Government as it would give ministers greater freedom.

The New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA) and Greenpeace will be representing the interests of small scale fishermen at the hearing.

They will argue that fish is not a private commodity but a public good held in trust by the government on behalf of all citizens.

Jerry Percy, from NUTFA, said: “The whole judicial review is based on the re-allocation of a constantly under used quota. The larger fleets argue that we are robbing Peter to pay Paul but that is just not the case.”

He added: “In almost every example where this has happened the quota has slowly but surely been focussed into fewer and fewer hands so that you end up with a situation where fishermen with a tradition going back thousands of years end up watching the larger fleets take over,” he said.