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A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that the government gives just five industrial fishing vessels five times the quota allocated small-scale fishing, which accounts for nearly 80% of the UK’s fleet, and that 43% of England’s fishing quota is held by foreign-controlled fishing businesses.

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The five largest foreign-controlled vessels hold 32% of the English quota, with one Dutch-controlled vessel holding 23%. In contrast, the small-scale fleet makes up four fifths of the entire UK fishing fleet but has just 4% of the UK’s quota.

Restoring fish stocks

Small-scale fishing provides 65% of the jobs at sea in England and Wales, and there is significant evidence from the New Economics Foundation that the UK would gain €469.8 million in revenue, and increase the number of jobs in fishing by 3,000, if fish stocks were restored.

‘Some fish stocks have been fished to the brink of collapse. Some catches are but a shadow of their former selves. The decline in catches has been mirrored by corresponding falls in fishing revenues and the numbers of jobs they support. But for many, struggling in the midst of a global economic crisis, this catastrophe is both out of sight and out of mind.

‘Yet, it is precisely in times such as these that natural resources should be better managed to produce more revenue and jobs.’

Aniol Esteban, head of environmental economics, New Economics Foundation

Our net gain

Greenpeace carried out the investigation into the UK’s fishing quota as part of its new campaign, ‘Our Net Gain’. It is urging the government to reclaim quota for local, low-impact fishermen in the UK, for the benefit of coastal economies and marine life.

Many local, small-scale fishermen blamed their lack of quota and struggle for survival on the European legislation, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

However, the CFP was reformed last year; to better protect marine life, it now requires national governments to prioritise giving quota to the fishing businesses that contribute most to coastal economies and which fish using low-impact methods.

Implementing legislation

Greenpeace and low-impact fishermen are calling on the UK government to implement the reformed legislation as a matter of urgency. This would lead to a re-prioritisation of quota in favour of the smaller scale fishermen who fish off the UK’s coastline.

‘The government is not giving a fair share of quota to local fishermen who look after the sea and our communities. We fish sustainably and seasonally and we benefit our communities by selling our catch to local fish mongers and restaurants; we bring business to local net makers, boat builders and engineering companies and we keep tourism going.

‘But instead of giving us the quota we, and our communities, need to survive, the government is choosing to give huge quantities of quota to industrial fishing businesses. That costs us jobs here but the government can put it right by implementing the Common Fisheries Policy.’

Kirk Stribling, a small-scale fisherman and business owner from Aldeburgh, Suffolk

Greenpeace says that by properly implementing the legislation, the government could reclaim some quota from industrial fishing vessels which do not fish as selectively – or contribute as directly to local coastal economies – as the local, low-impact fleet.

Cornelis Vrolijk

The Cornelis Vrolijk is a single vessel that, according to the new analysis, holds nearly a quarter (23%) of the English quota and fishes in UK waters. The vessel is owned by a UK subsidiary of a Dutch company and lands all of the fish it catches in Holland.

While at least half of its 63 crew are said to be British residents, the campaigners argue that the economic benefits to the UK and marine protection would be greater if more quota were instead allocated to the 5000-strong small-scale fleet fishing in UK inshore waters.

‘The government must reclaim our quota from the vice-like grip of big business and give more of it to local low-impact fishers to rebuild fish stocks and revitalise our crumbling coastal communities. Because of government inaction, the benefits of the UK’s fishing quota are not coming to coastal regions and home-grown businesses.

‘Instead, profits are going to industrial fishing companies, including foreign controlled businesses, which are killing jobs, the local fishing industry and tourism in coastal regions. By implementing the European law, there would be a net gain to the UK’s economy: jobs would be created; the marine environment would be better protected and the UK’s sustainable fishing sector would have a future.’

Sarah North, head of Oceans campaign, Greenpeace

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