On Tuesday 1st September, Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, spoke at the second reading of the Fisheries Bill in the House of Commons. Sir David raised a number of important local issues such as local management teams, illegal shellfish harvesting, independent scientific surveys and unfair quota systems.
After the Brexit transition period ends and we are no longer a part of the Commons Fisheries Policy, we need to proactively manage our fisheries as an independent coastal state. EU vessels have had the automatic right to fish in UK waters, but this Bill will enable us to control who comes into our waters and profits from our resources.
Sir David said: “Councillor Paul Gilson, who happens to be the chairman of Leigh town council, believes that a management team for each fishery area would be valuable, as the industry and fish in many locations are area specific. Leigh-on-Sea fishermen have recently had to cope with illegal harvesting of shellfish—Southend’s coastline has suffered nightmarishly from this—and local feeling is that a taskforce to tackle illegal fish and shellfish harvesting, with powers to cross-warrant, would control the problem more carefully and effectively, combined with an active fishery protection force. We also believe that, to improve the sustainability and continue the economic growth of the industry for future generations, more independent scientific surveys are needed. If surveys are undertaken by multinational logistics companies that have a personal industry in the ports and fishing industry, such as DP World, which is silting up the River Thames and causing some distress in the area I represent, they may not be as reliable or accurate as other ways of collecting data”.
With regards to the unfair quota system, Sir David added: “As many hon. Members throughout the debate have said, there really does need to be a change in the quota system. It is disgraceful the way that boats under 10 metres have been treated. We need to rectify these previous inequalities by changing the quota system and the category vessels that fall into that section”.
To finish Sir David said: “The coronavirus pandemic has been a nightmare for everyone, but I am delighted that Southend fishermen have been promoting local fish for local people. It has been a great success, with local fishermen landing their catches at their local ports and selling to local communities directly through social media and general advertising. They have done extremely well. In conclusion, this really is an excellent Bill. It will still allow foreign vessels in UK waters, subject to UK law and licences. We must ensure that we do not reduce our opportunities on a global scale. Leaving the European Union will of course give us more freedom in many aspects of life and business, an important one being the control of our fisheries and water, but if we allow foreign vessels to fish in our waters, we need access to theirs, with equal opportunities. European Union customers are dependent on fish caught in British waters. We need to maintain the competitiveness of our waters, as our fishing is worth between £6 billion and £8 billion”.