Labour in push to ensure small boats feel fishing uplift after Brexit
Fish quota should be more fairly distributed after Brexit, says Labour
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 22 Nov 2018
Small fishing boats must get a fairer share of fish quota under future Brexit arrangements, the Labour Party is demanding.
In a move backed by Grimsby MP Melanie Onn, Labour will look to change the Fisheries Bill during a debate on Wednesday, November 21, to ensure quota is not hoovered up by the largest boats when the UK becomes an independent coastal state.
Shadow fisheries minister, Luke Pollard, said reallocating quota along “social and environmental lines” would have a benefit for small boats – a group which make up the majority of the industry but currently own only six per cent of all British quota.
Grimsby no longer has an active catching sector but voters at the referendum cited the loss of the fishing industry as a major reason for voting by 70 per cent to leave the European Union, with the town once proudly known as the world’s largest fishing port.
According to Labour, 29 per cent of the UK’s fishing quota is owned or controlled by just five families on the Sunday Times Rich List.
Melanie Onn, MP for Grimsby, is backing the amendment supporting small fishing vessels (Image: Rick Byrne)
Ms Onn said she hoped Labour’s amendment, along with the increase in quota overall, would give more opportunities to the country’s inshore fleet.
“Leaving the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – which will not happen immediately under the current terms, not until after the transition period – will eventually mean there is greater quota for the UK to decide how to divvy up,” said the town’s MP.
“Making sure that a larger slice of that share goes to small vessels, which have been disproportionately disadvantaged, is a good idea. For those coastal communities that have some inshore vessels, they will be appreciative hearing Labour recognising the issue that they have been talking about for a long time.
“Quota is an enormous investment so to even get started and off the ground is really hard. But if there is more quota available, hopefully it will bring down the cost and making if more affordable.”
Grimsby is synonymous with fishing, having once been the largest fishing port in the world
Labour said its amendment was about delivering for the majority of the British fishing fleet.
A spokesman for the party said smaller boats, despite making up most of the British fishing fleet, had only six per cent of the total quota.
The Dutch-owned trawler, the Cornelis Vrolijk, controls more than a fifth of England’s entire quota allocation, and about two-thirds of the UK’s quota is awarded to three multi-national companies, added the party spokesman.
Plymouth MP Mr Pollard said: “By ignoring the needs of smaller fishing fleets, this government is betraying British fishing.
“[Environment secretary] Michael Gove could take action to redistribute fishing quota now if he wanted to but he is failing by not delivering quota reallocation in the Fisheries Bill.
“Labour is setting out our vision for Britain to have the most sustainable fisheries in the world. That means a greater focus on ensuring fish stocks are healthy, that there is proper enforcement and a fairer distribution of fishing quota.
Environment secretary Michael Gove pictured visiting north east Lincolnshire earlier this year
“Labour will ensure that fishing quota isn’t monopolised by the few. Fishing reform could usher in a huge regeneration of coastal towns but not unless ministers drastically improve the Fisheries Bill.”
Ms Onn said she would be using the Fisheries Bill debate this week to call for the £190m European Maritime Fund, which helps pay for training, equipment and other fleet support, to continue after Brexit.
The shadow front bench politician also wants guarantees written into law on health and safety in the industry and assurances about how British waters will be policed after leaving the CFP.
Ms Onn said: “We want to see whether the Tories are willing to go there and accept these changes.
"We have an ardent leaver heading up the department in Mr Gove. He was very happy to use fishing in regularly in his leave campaign and I feel very strongly that he should be held to account to deliver on his promises.”
A spokesman for the Conservative Party said: “This government will always support the interests of British fishermen, which is why we have increased the quota given to our under-10m fleet by 13 per cent in the last six years.
“Just a few months ago, Labour MEPs supported a bid to keep us inside the Common Fisheries Policy permanently, despite decades of damage to the UK fishing industry.
“If Labour really care about UK fishermen and our coastal communities, they will back our landmark Fisheries Bill to ensure we can take back control of our waters, and decide who may fish there and on what terms.”