The right to fish in the UK is falling into the hands of large-scale foreign fishing companies who provide virtually no economic benefit for the UK, research by Greenpeace has concluded.
The report, published earlier this week, claimed a number of large-scale foreign fishing companies – including companies that have been linked to illegal and destructive fishing practices – are a dominant force behind the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) – an influential lobby group in the UK fishing industry and one of the government’s leading industry advisors on fishing matters.
In the light of evidence showing that British fishing quota is held and exploited by foreign interests, Labour have branded the government as incompetent and complacent for not knowing who holds UK fishing quota.
Speaking today, Labour’s Shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris said: “Our seas are a vital public resource, but today’s revelations show that the right to fish in the UK is falling into the hands of large-scale foreign fishing companies who provide virtually no economic benefit for the UK.
“The report’s findings will come as a bitter pill to swallow for small-scale fisherman and struggling coastal communities. It is unacceptable that fleets representing the smaller, sustainable end of the industry, and which employ nearly two thirds of full-time workers should have to survive on just four per cent of the UK fishing quota.
“The fact that the government does not know who owns UK fishing quota, and what vested interests are at play, smacks of complacency. The public have the right to know who has the right to fish in the UK, but Ministers have dragged their feet on fulfilling their promise to publish this data.
“The government must now reassure the British public that it remains committed to putting sustainable fishing, which benefits Britain, at the centre of future policy.”
However, Barrie Deas of the NFFO countered the Greenpeace report, highlighting his organisation’s record on representing small-scale fishermen – including opposing reductions in TAC (Total Allowable Catch) for species important to the inshore fleet and increased safety funding
Mr Deas said the Greenpeace report was “a deliberate and conscious attempt to divide the fishing industry along superficial small boat/big boat lines, in the hope that this will give Greenpeace space and leverage to pursue its own fundamentalist environmental agenda. As the largest, most credible and most active fishermen’s organisation, the NFFO stands in its way and has to be taken down a peg or two.”
He added: “No other organisation has put forward more positive ideas for giving small-scale fishermen a stronger voice and increased involvement in management decisions.”