Four of the five candidates battling for the Fleetwood seat in the General Election have backed a Greenpeace campaign to help give the port’s fishermen a bigger share of quotas.
The environmental group will bring a converted fishing vessel to Fleetwood next week as part of its nationwide campaign to put quotas on the General Election agenda.
Nearly half of the English quota is used by foreign industrial fishing corporations and just six per cent is given to local, low impact fishermen who fish sustainably and directly contribute to local economies. We aim to change that
And George Osborne, Chancellor in the coalition administration, also agreed existing fishing rules were ‘unfair’ when he visited Pilling on the campaign trail this week.
Greenpeace vessel Rising Tide will come into Fleetwood docks on Tuesday, April 21, bearing Greenpeace members who will then stage a public meeting at the Strawberry Gardens pub, on Poulton Road.
All the parliamentary candidates for Lancaster and Fleetwood, which has a Tory majority of just 333, have been invited to the public session, which takes place between 6pm and 7.30pm.
The main topic for discussion will be increased fishing quotas for local fishermen.
Greenpeace campaigner Hannah Martin said: “Nearly half of the English quota is used by foreign industrial fishing corporations and just six per cent is given to local, low impact fishermen who fish sustainably and directly contribute to local economies. We aim to change that.”
Some of Fleetwood’s fishermen – currently totalling around 10 vessels – are also likely to be at the meeting.
Reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy last year have given fishing campaigners hope that a greater share of fishing quota will be given to local, sustainable fishermen like those at Fleetwood – instead of foreign boats and huge factory ships.
Ms Martin, whose campaign is backed by the New Under Ten Fishermens Association, added: “Greenpeace believes that putting pressure in these key coastal battle grounds is a prime opportunity to force the next government to put local fishermen first in the queue for quota.
“The next government should implement new EU fishing law that says more fishing quota should be given to sustainable fishermen. That will create and protect jobs, inject cash into the economy and boost fish stocks.”
The five-point plan calls for: giving local, sustainable boats a fair share of quota; restoring fish stocks by rewarding selective fishing methods; protecting the ocean in a way that benefits local fishermen and coastal communities; giving local, sustainable boats priority access to coastal waters; small scale fishermen to be represented at the highest level in Europe.
One man who is interested in attending the meeting is Fleetwood inshore fisherman John Worthington, skipper/owner of 10ft vessel, Mi-Amor.
John, whose two-handed boat is one of around 10 commercial fishing vessels still operating out of the port, said: “The quota for sole, plaice and skate is really tight.
“Anything that can push the next government to get something extra would be very welcome. I hope to get a few lads to this meeting.”
Eric Ollerenshaw, Conservative candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood, is expected to attend and fellow candidates Cat Smith (Labour),Chris Coates (Green), Matthew Atkins (UKIP) and Robin Long (Lib Dem) have been invited too.
Mr Ollerenshaw said: “The quota system is quite complex because it makes sense to sell some of the quota on to foreign ships because there are types of fish, such as hake, that are eaten in countries like Spain, but not over here.
“However, clearly a better system is needed to allow Britain more control of our own waters, which would help our local fisherman. That’s one of the things the Conservatives would be negotiating before the Euro referendum in 2017.”
Cat Smith said: “I look forward to attending the meeting and I welcome this event which highlights the need to support sustainable fishing.
“Fishing has been a huge part of Fleetwood’s past and hopefully it can be a part of its future as well.
“The Labour party takes the nurturing of the natural environment seriously and this can be best achieved if sustainable industries succeed.”
Matthew Atkins commented: “From its inception the Common Fisheries Policy has favoured unsustainable, large-scale, long-distance fishing over small-scale, low impact, local fisheries. I fully support this effort by Greenpeace to change fisheries policy to a better model, which works for British fishing communities.
“In UKIP we believe the European Union is institutionally incapable of making this change, and to do this for Britain we will have to leave, but I wish these organisations all the best.”
Robin Long added: “We need to ensure that everything we do is sustainable, and this includes fishing. I would welcome any policy changes that aim to, and can be proven to aid sustainable fish stock. We do need to look again at fishing quotas and make sure that they are not detrimental to our local communities or fishing industries. I think such a review should look at all possible options including whether local fishing quotas would be of benefit to these industries and communities.”
The Green Party’s Chris Coates was not available for comment.
Osborne: ‘investment for future’
George Osborne hailed the investment in Fleetwood which is providing a massive boost for the town’s future.
On the campaign trail in rural Pilling, the coalition administration Chancellor said a plan for working people had been set out and promised a positive vision for constituents in Fleetwood and Lancaster.
He added: “We have set out a plan for working people of Fleetwood, Lancashire and the country.
“Over the last five years in Fleetwood, unemployment is down by half, we have the fish park, new sea defences and planned improvements to the roads which Eric Ollerenshaw has fought hard for.
“This is a bedrock of investment.
Speaking about current fishing regulations which mean that Fleetwood fishermen are struggling with just six percent of the fishing quota in England, Mr Osborne said the existing rules were unfair, although some changes have already been made.
He added: “We’ve ended the discarding of fish which was just crazy and looking to the future, the fish park is a very visible sign of our commitment to the area.
“It has never happened before but with a strong MP things are going forward.
“We have got to change the way the fishing policy works but a commitment to a referendum (in Europe) is needed.
“Five years ago in Fleetwood there was a lack of investment but now jobs have been created. ”