Andrew George MP Presses Minister to Support Handline Fishermen
Andrew George, MP for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Constituency of St Ives and the Liberal Democrat leader on environment and fishing issues in the Commons, today called on Ministers to give their support to Cornish handlining mackerel fishermen.
During this morning’s Defra Questions session in Parliament Mr George asked Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon MP if he would review the Government’s support for the MCS in the light of the Cornish fishermen’s decision to withdraw from the scheme. The Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) certification programme is a global scheme which acknowledges those fishing communities who use environmentally responsible and sustainable fishing methods. Fishing communities which qualify for certification are able to label their product as MSC approved.
Cornish handlining mackerel fishermen were amongst the first to be registered under the MSC programme. However, the Cornish fishermen have found that the extra cost of certification to them (£12000 + VAT per annum) and the regulatory burdens upon small fish merchants are not justified by the benefits. Mr George believes that the MSC certification may have been undermined by decisions of the Council to certify high impact fishing methods such as the large scale trawling and seining for mackerel in Scotland; something which may have undermined the value of certification.
Mr George highlighted that whilst for larger and less sustainable fishing interests the registration costs are comparatively low in the case of smaller, and crucially, more sustainable, fishing communities the high annual fees mean that those who are most qualified for certification are unable to receive it.
At Defra Questions Mr George pressed Ministers for their support, asking:
“Is the Minster aware that the 200 strong fisherman’s association of Cornish mackerel handliners have decided to no longer continue their certification with the MSC because they judge that the costs outweigh the benefits, particularly bearing in mind that the MSC appears to have become more big business led and supermarket driven and that the scheme is allowing some very unsustainable high impact trawler based methods to achieve certification?”
Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon MP responded saying:
“MSC accreditation is a highly respected brand globally and must remain so. We must do our utmost to work with them to ensure that remains the case. I am dismayed to have heard very recently about the decision of the handline fishermen in Cornwall and I want to make sure that every fishermen we know is trying to get into accredited schemes such as this because they know, not only are they fishing sustainably but they are accessing the market at a premium price. That really must be our effort in sustaining the MSC accredited scheme.”
Mr George had already raised these matters with the Minister and will be following up his concerns.