In October the leader of Torridge District Council wrote to the Prime Minister urging the Government to rethink a blanket ban covering Ray Fishing in UK waters, an important species for local boats. The ban was introduced as the total quota for this species was likely to be exceeded nationally. This was despite careful local management resulting in quotas still being available off the North Devon coast. The letter was frank about the devastating effect the blanket ban would have on livelihoods and the Torridge Economy by imposing such an indiscriminate solution.
The Under Secretary of State for Farming, Food and Marine Environment, George Eustice MP responded this week. His letter opened by recognising the effective efforts made by North Devon fishermen to improve the sustainability of Skates and Rays. However the danger of exceeding UK quotas in general and the financial penalty and future reduction in quotas of potential overfishing were cited as a reason why the Government felt it had to act. It promised compensation for areas that hadn’t been able to take their quotas in full, and were seeking additional quotas for next year, stating that they had already secured an additional 36 tonnes through this route.
The Minister was optimistic that if it was not possible to re-open the fishery this year then it would re-open on January 1.
Leader of the Council – Councillor Phillip Collins Comments:
“The Governments response is well reasoned but Torridge is being made to pay the price for poor control on quota catches elsewhere in the Country. Even if the quotas are restored in January there is still a lack of clarity. Local fishermen have done their part by limiting catches and introducing no-fishing zones and periods of time to allow sustainable stock recovery but they are not being rewarded for this.
There are now also reports that cod quotas might be cut as well. Many of the boats are currently in South Devon fishing for other species and their return looks doubtful at the moment. Concern is being raised that the Winter weather conditions will also limit income earning potential and in the meantime costs and debt continue to mount in relation to rent and other fixed costs.
We will continue to urge the Government to take action while at the same time work with local industry groups to mitigate the effect of this disproportionate action. Given the immediate consequences this is having we strongly feel that further help from the Government would be appropriate”.