Last week the government’s Fisheries Bill was debated in Parliament for the second time ahead of us leaving the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy at the end of the year.
The Bill sets out how Britain will become an independent coastal state outside of the EU. It now goes to the ‘committee’ stage where I and other colleagues will scrutinise the government’s proposals.
The Tories have left our coastal communities suffering for too long from poor transport infrastructure and lack of economic opportunities. I want to see a coastal renaissance – and fishing needs to be central to this. I want more fish landed in coastal towns like ours across the country. With ten fishing industry jobs on land for every one job at sea, this will directly lead to more jobs being created in fish markets, processing and distribution in towns like Fleetwood.
This is why Labour drafted it’s ‘Jobs in coastal communities’ clause which demands that two thirds of fish caught in UK waters would need to be landed in our ports. This would protect jobs at sea, and create so many more on land, giving our coastal communities a real boost.
Under the Tories, UK fishing quota is dominated by huge, often foreign-owned vessels which land their catch abroad. We need a real shift in favour of smaller vessels which are the real backbone of the British fishing industry – the sort of fishing vessels we used to have in Fleetwood.
The fishers operating in and out of our coastal towns and villages are the original stewards of our oceans – what is good for the fish is good for them. So we must make this a Sustainable Fisheries Bill, with environmental protection and restoration of the rich diversity of our oceans at its heart.
Here are some of the facts – and this is why we must hold the government to account and make sure we get the best deal for the fishing industry.
In the UK, we export most of what we catch and import most of what we eat (80% of UK fish landings are exported).
Under the Common Fisheries Policy, EU fishing vessels landed more fish from UK waters than UK vessels landed from EU waters. Between 2012-2016- EU states vessels annually landed fish worth £575million caught in UK waters, compared to UK vessels landing only £96million worth of fish caught in other member states’ waters.
The Government has always had the power to redistribute share of UK’s quota but has chosen not to, despite small vessel owners facing severe financial hardship over the years.
50% of the English quota is held by companies based overseas; the small scale fleet holds only 6%; and the five largest quota-holders control more than a 1/3 of the UK fishing quota, with four owned by families on the Sunday Times Rich List.
Small boats are the backbone of the British fishing fleet (74% of all active vessels are under 10m) and they deserve a lion’s share of fish caught under a UK quota. That’s why I’ll continue to fight to make sure we get this Fisheries Bill right.