Defra fisheries minister Mark Spencer (pictured above speaking to Nigel Sayers, skipper of the Result SM 80) made a visit to the inshore fleet in Brighton shortly before Christmas, ‘to listen and to learn’, as he put it to one of the fishermen he spoke to.

Attending with staff from both Defra and the MMO, he discussed a range of issues for inshore fishermen, ranging from continued concerns about the ML5 and the MCA’s under-15m safety code to issues with IFCA byelaws and the effective closure of a targeted pollack fishery in 2024.

The minister said: “I’m delighted to be in Brighton to hear about the challenges and opportunities in inshore fisheries.”

One conversation during the fisheries minister’s visit to Brighton before Christmas may have set the scene for a revival of the traditional winter fishery for sprat – one of the quotas that have received a post-Brexit uplift.

Fisherman Andy Gillam explained to the minister that current legislation prevents his sprat nets from being used, despite the fact that the fishery is invariably 100% clean.

“I explained that we can catch the sprat with trawls, but they get squashed and the quality is so poor they go for fishmeal. We can also take them in mono nets, but clearing the nets makes this unviable as well.

“I know in the big scheme of things, with the hardship the pollack closure is causing, and the MCA issues, this doesn’t seem much, but for a small group of boats along the south and east coasts, this could be two or three weeks of decent wages, at a time when there is no other alternative.

“We discusses this with the officials, both MMO and Defra, and everyone involved seemed genuinely committed to finding a way forward for us to give this a go in January, if we can find a legal route.

“It was a good meeting. It’s a shame the minister can’t solve some of the other problems he heard about during his visit. One skipper he spoke to has an issue with his ML5 that is quite ridiculous – a medical issue that the bloke has had for years without a problem, then he was failed by the doctor and suddenly, he has his life turned upside down.

“There was a similar issue over an MCA inspection that means a boat that was safe for years is now filling up with rainwater that the minister was able to see at first hand.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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