Titford joins fishing battle

By TED JEORYA EURO MP has vowed to fight to save the plight of Essex fishermen who fear their livings could be lost because of European rules.East of England MEP Jeffrey Titford said recently imposed catch limits for North Sea sole could be the "final nail in our fishing coffin".

By TED JEORY

A EURO MP has vowed to fight to save the plight of Essex fishermen who fear their livings could be lost because of European rules.

East of England MEP Jeffrey Titford said recently imposed catch limits for North Sea sole could be the "final nail in our fishing coffin".

Fishermen in West Mersea, hit hard at the height of their season by the severely cut quotas, said last week they were sceptical about how much politicians could do for them.


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But yesterday, Mr Titford, the grandson of a West Mersea oysterman, said he would be pressing for alterations in new rules that limit the amount of sole that boats under 10 metres could catch.

The new regulations were imposed on Friday as a way of trying to stop fishermen going over UK limits set by the EU.

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Branding the situation a "fiasco", he said: "It's just about made the situation impossible for these men. I don't think the policy makers really understand the effect they have on people.

"And it's not just the fishermen they affect either – there's all the other people associated in the industry like the packers.

"I was born in West Mersea and I'm going to try my damnedest to help these fellows."

North Sea quotas are set by the EU although in Britain they are managed by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Because of the large amount of sole caught so far this year, Defra decided new restrictions needed to be placed on catches to avoid exceeding limits imposed by Europe.

However, fishermen said the move will make it uneconomical for up to 100 boats to operate off the East coast, leaving their owners and workers with no viable income as winter approaches.

Mr Titford said he had already instructed his researcher to investigate whether bureaucrats in Brussels were forcing ever-tighter quotas to be driven through each year.

He said: "If it was Brussels, I'm going to take this to the European Parliament and press for a complete review in the regulations."

John Jowers, vice-chairman of the West Mersea Fisherman's Association, said: "I've had hundreds of phone calls of supporting us on this matter.

"Pen-pushers are trying to destroy centuries of cultural life in this area. They are just crucifying us.

"I welcome Mr Titford's support, in fact anything that anyone could help us with."

No one from the European Union could be contacted last night.

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