Town skipper welcomes fishing rule changes

Hartlepool fisherman Phil Walsh
Hartlepool fisherman Phil Walsh

FISHERMEN in Hartlepool have welcomed new Government rules which will “slightly increase” the amount of fish they can catch.

But one town trawlerman, Phil Walsh, said “there is still a long way to go” before self-employed fishermen can call the move a success.

The latest fishing guidelines, which were decided following talks in Brussels on Monday, have ruled that fishing fleets should have fewer days at sea but be allowed bigger catch quotas.

However, fishermen will not know the exact increases until later in the new year.

Phil, who fishes from The Lucia boat, said the guidelines are unlikely to have a negative effect on Hartlepool’s fisherman due to the town being home to smaller inshore fishing fleets.

Under the new rules the smaller boats, which aren’t capped on the number of days at sea due to the weather dictating their working times, will be allowed to net a slightly larger amount of fish.

The regulations will mainly affect larger out-of-town vessels that sail in deeper waters, by reducing their working days.

Phil, 40, said: “These guidelines have just been announced but the exact details of it all won’t emerge until the back end of January or February.

“It’s complicated because the rules go on the size of your boat, the nets you use, and the type of fish you want to catch for example. But in a nutshell the quota has gone up slightly which is a good thing.

“The inshore, smaller fleets and communities around the coasts haven’t been affected on the number of days at sea because it’s the elements that dictate how many days we can work.

He added: “They’ve come up with this because scientific advice is saying that the fishing stocks are good, and certain stocks of species like haddock, whiting, cod and plaice are a lot healthier.

“We’re none the wiser with how much more we can fish at the minute but we’ll find out more in the new year.

“It’s better news for us, better than them having another decrease. At least it’s going to be a slight increase, but there’s still a long way to go. It’s not brilliant, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Phil believed the news will not have an effect on the price of fish and chips, or the price of produce in wet fish shops.

UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon claimed he had secured “the best possible deal” for the fishing industry after three weeks of negotiations.

He fended off moves to cut fishing fleets’ days at sea to just four a fortnight next year, in exchange for greater national fish conservation efforts.

Increases in catch allowances for 2012 include a doubling of the North-East coast herring quotas, and a 15 per cent rise for the area’s haddock and whiting.