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Fishing quota fears

PUBLISHED: 10:44 26 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:57 16 September 2010

Extra quota which has been secured in a bid to boost the east coast's struggling fishing industry will not be enough to help small boats survive, it has been claimed.

Extra quota which has been secured in a bid to boost the east coast's struggling fishing industry will not be enough to help small boats survive, it has been claimed.

Many under-10m fishing boats have already been out of action for several months because there is no quota left for them to catch.

Now the Marine Management Organisation, which is responsible for managing the delivery of the Common Fisheries Policy in the UK, has secured extra North Sea sole quota from the Netherlands and Germany so that fishing for sole can start again on September 1.

However Chris Wightman, who fishes out of Lowestoft with his brother Steve, said that while the additional quota is welcome, it will not be enough to protect small businesses like his for the future.

“We've had no income for six weeks, so this is good news as it'll provide something for the next few weeks, but it's not really enough for the fleet to work hard enough to be able to earn a wage. There's still no skate quota available, and that is one of the main sources of income for boats on this stretch of coast” he said.

He added: “These are really difficult times. The under-10m boats are small and sustainable, but they're being prevented from fishing by this system.”

The Common Fisheries Policy will be reviewed in 2012, but Mr Wightman said that might be too late for some North Sea boats.

He said: “Hopefully the review will look at these sort of issues, but boats have to be able to keep going until then. We've already lost crews on two or three of the boats in Lowestoft recently because people have taken jobs with offshore windfarm companies, so there's a big question mark over whether those skilled workers will ever come back.”

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, who has been pressing for increased quotas, is meeting fisheries minister Richard Benyon in Suffolk on September 3 to discuss the problem.

She said: “It is important we support small businesses and continue to enable them to fish; they are the lifeblood of our coastal communities. I recognise that this is only a short-term solution and I have already asked for a review of how we manage our fisheries in the UK so we can try and prevent this situation in the future.”

Marine Management Organisation chairman Chris Parry said: “Quotas are set annually by the European Commission and the MMO has the difficult balancing task of ensuring that stocks are managed throughout the year to maximise the fishing opportunities for the UK industry, whilst ensuring that stocks are not overfished and the UK government and taxpayer does not have to pay steep penalties”.

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