Fishermen reject plan to slash fleet
25th March 2004
A PLAN which would put 30 per cent of the UK whitefish fleet out of action for four years was rejected by fishing industry leaders today.
The controversial recommendation was made after a study into the British fishing industry by the Prime Minster's strategy unit.
The unit's report also recommends that 13 per cent of Britain's whitefish fleet should be scrapped.
Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw called on the industry to cooperate with the government. "We are confident that with the industry, we can manage our way through to a profitable long-term future."
But Alex Smith, president of the Scottish Fisherman's Federation, said the proposals to tie up part of the fleet, which would need to be paid for by the industry, was a non-starter.
He said it "is completely unrealistic. You can't even mothball a vessel for six months."
Louise Heaps, head of the marine programme run by the conservation group WWF, said: "While the report underlines the desperate situation that our fisheries are in, it also clearly highlights that the UK fishing industry can be profitable and sustainable in the long term, a vision strongly held by WWF.
"However, reductions in the fleet, in both the long and short term, must be underpinned by robust levels of funding to bolster local economics and ensure that we still have a fishing industry when stocks recover.
"The UK government is to be applauded for commissioning this report, but it must take these recommendations seriously and show the leadership needed to take some of these tough decisions.
"It's vital that European member states take the same positive approach and match their fleets to the fish stocks if we are to achieve the recovery of marine environment that is so desperately needed."
Conservative spokesman John Whittingdale said: "We welcome the recognition in the report that the Common Fisheries Policy has failed and that there needs to be fundamental reform.
"Successive cuts have already reduced the fleet to about the minimum size necessary to sustain a viable industry. Further cuts of this size could sound its death knell."