Fisherman backs ‘dumping’ battle

A HARTLEPOOL fisherman hopes a new high-profile campaign will change laws that see him forced to dump dead fish overboard.

Town trawlerman Phil Walsh hopes the Fish Fight campaign, led by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, will see changes to strict EU laws that dictate what and how much fish they can land.

The European Union, which makes laws for fishing, estimates around half of all fish caught in the North Sea, close to one million tonnes, are thrown back because they are not allowed.

But Phil, 39, who fishes off the Headland at Hartlepool, hopes the TV campaign will help change the quota system under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which is now being reformed.

He said: “The sea is absolutely full of fish and fishermen are seeing this all across the world but the scientists won’t agree with us.

“What all fishermen are asking for is to give us a set number of days at sea and let us land what we catch.

“It would stop this immoral process of discards altogether.”

Fisherman often catch a variety of species when they go out but those protected by the law have to be thrown back.

The law also applies if they catch too much of popular species such as cod, haddock and plaice which have strict quotas.

Phil said under the EU, Hartlepool’s fishing fleet has been reduced by half in the last 10 years and there are now just nine trawlers still operating.

He added: “The quotas for fish are totally unworkable and at the moment there are no winners.

“The celebrities have done a great job in bringing this to a head.

“If anything comes out of it, it has got to come where discards stop and fishermen are allowed to make a viable living without dumping all the time.”

Martin Callanan, European MP for the North-East, is also calling for change.

He said: “The destruction of global fish stocks and the dumping of unwanted and juvenile fish on this appalling scale, has gone on for far too long and it is time to find a more common sense, sustainable solution.”

Channel 4 screened a series of shows presented by chefs including Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay looking at the fishing industry.

More than 600,000 people have supported an internet petition so far.