The Sunday Telegraph

Closure of last group for small fishing boats ‘a blow to the soul’


THE only fishermen’s associatio­n for small boats has shut up shop, signalling a blow to the “soul of coastal communitie­s”, marine experts have said.

The New Under Ten Fishermen’s Associatio­n (NUTFA) represente­d around 1,800 boats, measuring less than 10m, which traditiona­lly fish within the six-mile inshore limit.

Jerry Percy, its founder, said it had been forced to close because he “refuses to be party to what I see as the ongoing destructio­n” of the industry.

The fleet has consistent­ly complained in recent decades of missing out on government quotas that specify how many fish each boat can catch in favour of trawlers and other large and often foreign-owned vessels.

Boats under 10 metres make up 79 per cent of the UK fleet but only have around 2 per cent of the quota.

They now say that overfishin­g further out at sea has left them with nothing to catch inshore. There is no comparison to how it was a few years ago – there [are] no fish,” said Mr Percy. “A few years ago, you could make a reasonable living on a small boat. Now people are giving up time and time again. Because there’s no fish.”

On Wednesday, the Government’s own scientific advisers reported that half of its maximum catch limits for commonly eaten fish such as cod, mackerel and monkfish had been set at levels above scientific advice.

Charles Clover, the co-founder of Blue Marine Foundation, which is suing the Government for allowing over-fishing, said it had “once again showed itself incapable of looking after either the majority of fishermen or fish, both of which are endangered”.

He added that the loss of NUTFA was “indicative of the fact that the inshore fleet is on its knees”.

“These small boats are the soul of coastal communitie­s,” he said.

A recent report by Blue Marine, found jobs in the fishing industry dropped nearly 25 per cent between 2016 and 2022. The number of fishing vessels fell by more than 12 per cent.

Graham Doswell, a third-generation fisherman in Eastbourne, said : “I’ve been fishing all my life, for over 50 years. I must say, it’s quite saddening really. I had hoped that when I left fishing it would still be in good order, but to be honest it’s in a terrible state at the moment.”

Mr Clover said poor regulation of EU boats in British waters had stripped out stocks that usually went to small boats.

“There are lots of species like red mullet and grey mullet and bass which are valuable and the inshore fleet used to catch, and now these under-regulated French, Belgian and Dutch fly-shooting vessels … have been sweeping up and down the Channel taking their fish,” he said.

The small boat industry had hoped Brexit would lead to more sustainabl­e fishing, but quotas are still largely based on historical fishing rights.

Defra was approached for comment.

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