PICTURES: Fleetwood fishermen battling EU quotas and ‘hidden’ funding

Fleetwood’s last inshore fishermen have vowed to carry on trying to make a living from the port – despite being hit by new EU quotas and missing out on a share of cash which could have given them a financial lifeline.

They say they have been excluded from a share of a £300,000 pot of cash awarded by the West of Morecambe Fisheries Fund to community projects within the fishing industry.

Photo Neil Cross'Rod Collinson, one of Fleetwood's four remaining fishermen

Photo Neil Cross'Rod Collinson, one of Fleetwood's four remaining fishermen

They claim they had no idea about the fund, were not informed and not given the chance to act on an application for it.

And to compound matters further, the fishermen are struggling against the odds with fishing bans on certain species still plentiful in the Irish Sea, and small quotas.

Now, they say, it is not financially viable to take their boats out.

Fisheries Fund was established to help community projects in fishing communities which have been affected by the operation of offshore wind farms in the Irish Sea.

It is a pool of financial donations given voluntarily by the developers of the windfarms.

Communities stretching as far as Ireland are able to apply for the money.

But three of the port’s fishermen, who are facing a difficult winter, are angered by the whole issue.

They claim it was the duty of the West Coast Committee of the National Ferederation of Fishing Organisations to make fishermen aware the application process was underway.

Rod Collinson, who has fished off Fleetwood for 25 years said: “We should have been told about it. There were meetings held and we were not informed.

“Apparently another Fleetwood fisherman was asked to inform us about it.

“But that is an unfair conduct of the application process and we are demanding that any decision on funding will not take place until we have had the opportunity to submit our applications. “

Whitehaven fisherman and chairman of Whitehaven Fisherman’s Association Brian Phillipson, who has also been affected, visited Fleetwood this week to discuss the funding with the port’s fishermen.

He said: “The fund has been on hold for the past five years so the cash has mounted up.

“But we the ordinary fishermen have not been informed.

“It has been a tight kept secret.

“We have formed an action group now and we want some answers.”

The fishermen are already struggling with a complete ban on skate and ray fishing because the quota issued by the European Uniion for 2014 has already been swallowed up – mainly during the summer months in the south of the country.

William Bamber, who has fished from fleetwood for seven years says 40 per cent of his business is skate and ray fishing and until theban is lifted, its not financially viable to leave the quayside.

He said: “Skate is still plentiful up here but because of bad management, we can’t fish for it.

“I’m having to rethink plans and may have to fish for lobster and shell fish.

“But that means more equipment. A bit of funding would have helped us with that.

“We need all the help we can get, when the windfarm was built we were promised support.”

Fellow fisherman Brian Phillipson added: “We need better representation.

“We understand the windfarms were in charge of publicising the funding.

“We have plenty of contact from the wndfarms about other things, but not about this.

“The next round of applications, which close on December 4 should be postponed at least to give everyone else a fair chance.

“We have been told we will qualify for next year’s funding, but why not this year?

“Nothing is getting through to the boats.”

Fleetwood fisherman John Worthington added: “We are not going to give up.”