Andrew George MP says ‘Government Plans May Unintentionally Finish Traditional Cove Fishing

Posted on: 10th June 2011

The MP for the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives, Andrew George, has warned Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, that the Government proposals which are intended to protect smaller and traditional fishing ports and methods may in fact put them out of business.

The Government is currently consulting on its plans for the future management of the under 10 meter sector. Most of these boats fish within the six mile limit and rarely go more than five or ten miles from their home port – which is the maximum they can steam to and fro for a day’s fishing.

22 fishermen from around the West Cornwall coast came to meet Mr George at his invitation in his constituency office on Friday evening (3rd June 2011) and all criticised the Government’s plans as being at best ambiguous and at worst would threaten the very survival of what has been a long standing traditional industry. Representatives from the coves of Helford, Gillan, Porthoustock, Coverack, Cadgwith, Mullion, Porthleven, Newlyn, Penberth, Sennen, Cape Cornwall and St Ives Bay all attended and expressed deep concern about the plans.

This includes a proposal to take 60% of the under 10 meter sector quota and leave it with those who have arguably abused the less regulated environment by introducing very powerful boats which are only just under the length limit but which have a wholly different capacity to that of the kind of boats used by fishermen around the West Cornwall coast. Many local fishermen have to drag their boats up the cove or beach to safe dry mooring above high tide at the end of a day’s fishing. Many cove fishermen argue that they are in the best position to police and manage the fishery within a few miles of their cove and not to be restricted by the limitations of monthly quotas which don’t reflect the opportunities presented to them by the shoals which pass by their shores.

Mr George said, “It is remarkable that fishermen who use these low impact methods like handlining, long lining or potting can still eek a living. Fish which are thrown back usually live on. Hundreds of people can still make a living from the least destructive of all fishing methods.

“Surely this is something which the Government should be learning from and encouraging, rather than threatening by over policing and by imposing an inflexible quota system which really ought to be applied to international vessels operating at an industrial scale.”

The fishermen have asked for an extension to the consultation deadline on the Government’s reform proposals – which is due to close at the end of this month. They complain that the policy proposal is ambiguous and unclear and that Government Ministers and officials should come and speak to fishermen and better understand the impact of their proposals before taking them any further.

Mr George has asked to speak to Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, before the Government takes its policy any further.