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EU ban threatens closure of North Devon fishing

24 October 2014

A ban on ray fishing in Britain by the EU Marine Management Organisation (MMO) threatens the end of fishing in North Devon.

Appledore Fish Dock in North Devon has closed down and fishermen there could have to sell their boats after an unexpected ban at short notice from the MMO, stripping the local fishing industry of almost three-quarters of its revenue. The MMO imposed the ban, which includes the Bristol Channel, after the country as a whole exceeded its quota for the year. The closure will last until 31 December.

One of the owners of Bideford Fisheries, which processes all fish landed in North Devon, is reported as saying, “If the seas were fished out we would hold our hands up but it is absolutely swarming.” Indeed, local fishermen had been dedicated to conserving a sustainable fishery, helping to set up the Lundy No Take Zone and introducing closed areas for spawning.

The company, which has shut its doors and laid off all 10 staff, is contemplating closing the wet fish side of the business. Closure of the fishery would affect some 70 fishermen, 650 shore-based jobs and cost the region around £100 million a year.

In Ilfracombe, the brand-new £300,000 trawler Boys Pride, bought by the Wharton family to selectively fish for rays, is set to be sold without ever going to sea, after the ban came in just 24 hours before her maiden voyage. It scuppers 35 years of work for the family.

The ban will last until the end of the year, but a reduced quota next year combined with the shutdown could well be the death-knell of the local industry, which lands some 500 tonnes of ray per year. While the British North Devon fleet is tied up and banned from fishing, Belgian and French boats are continuing to take fish on a huge scale outside our six-mile limit. The oldest fishing port in Britain, Appledore, faces extinction while our supposedly threatened fish are taken by foreign vessels and landed in Europe.

It isn’t sufficient for government to just wring their hands and make ineffective appeals to the EU. The government must come out of hiding, protect our national interests and defend our fishing industry. We still have something of a navy. Send it out to protect our fishing boats and declare openly we will have no truck with destructive EU quotas. Keep fishing in North Devon.