Stark warning on mental health toll on fishers

NFFO chairman Paul Gilson has welcomed moves by Anthony Mangnall (pictured above), the Conservative MP for Totnes, that secured a debate in Westminster this Tuesday (14 June) on the existential issues facing the small-scale and inshore fleet in the UK.

He told Fishing News: “I cannot tell you how important and how vital this discussion is, and I am hugely grateful that Anthony Mangnall has placed this issue in front of parliament.

“I know a very large number of fishermen are deeply depressed over the actions of the MCA, and IFCAs’ management and enforcement against the industry. Many now are on suicide watch. Some are personal friends I have known for decades – robust and hardworking people who simply no longer know where to turn.

“The combination of the entirely antagonistic approach that IFCAs and the MCA are taking towards fishermen – in stark contrast to that of the MMO – is costing livelihoods, and risks also taking the lives of fishermen.

“I very much hope that MPs across the country will participate in this debate, and see that what were first thought to be isolated instances, are in fact part of a countrywide pressure on the inshore fleet that in many places risks its entire future.”

Ahead of the debate, Anthony Mangnall’s office said: “As a representative for a coastal constituency which includes the ports of Brixham, Dartmouth and Salcombe, Mr Mangnall works closely with industry bodies and fishing businesses.

“Since his election in 2019, Mr Mangnall has met regularly with fishermen from his South Devon constituency to hear their concerns and discuss what additional support is needed for our coastal communities.”

During the debate, Anthony Mangnall will be focusing on the new regulations that are ‘presenting challenges and additional burdens’ for inshore fishermen, including IVMS, the Catch App and the MCA Code of Practice for Small Fishing Vessels.

The new requirements for all vessels under 12m to install IVMS and use the Catch App are, says the statement from his office, ‘part of the government’s strategy to improve data collection within the UK fishing industry’.

“However, IVMS will lead to increased costs for small-scale fishermen despite full funding initially being promised, while there are also concerns surrounding the suitability of the equipment itself due to the reliance on GPRS.

“Concerns around catch recording include the lack of appropriate infrastructure and connectivity at some ports, as well as an overall lack of clarity on the rules to be followed,” adds the statement.

Regarding the new under- 15m Code, it says: “New requirements have left many fishermen feeling less safe fishing in bad weather than they did under the old Code.”

Mr Mangnall is hopeful that raising these issues in parliament will encourage the MCA, MMO and Defra to ‘work together and find the solutions to help our fishing communities develop and expand across our coastal areas’. It is hoped that the debate will attract MPs from all parties and all four nations.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Anthony Mangnall said: “Outside of the Common Fisheries Policy, we have the opportunity to be masters of our own fate. We must use this independence not to tie our fishermen’s hands behind their back, but to give the flexibility and freedom to fish across our coastal waters.

“That means rethinking the requirements around I-VMS and ensuring the Catch App is flexible during its infancy. Above all, it means ensuring that the regulators and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are working with those who go to sea, rather than against them.

“This debate continues upon the work that I and colleagues are undertaking to give the fishing industry a louder and more prominent voice within Westminster and Whitehall. We will use this opportunity to hold the government’s feet to the fire and to ensure a common sense approach when it comes to supporting this sector.

“My aim is to see the UK’s fishing fleets expand and develop to create new opportunities within every coastal town and village.”

Labour MP and former fisheries spokesman Luke Pollard also welcomed the opportunity to debate the pressures facing the inshore sector.

He told Fishing News: “Fishing has been betrayed by the government, and now it is actively sidelining the sector. It isn’t enough to demand fairness – we now need fishing communities like the one I represent in Plymouth to make tangible demands to improve our sector.

“Scrapping the hopeless CatchApp, fixing IVMS, and a plan for decarbonisation and for skills, are urgently required. Let’s not let ministers get away with screwing over fishers without a fight.”

Ahead of the debate, NUTFA director Jerry Percy said: “Despite countless meetings and government promises both pre and post EU exit, the seemingly endless challenges facing our inshore sector only seem to get worse, not better.

“In over 40 years of being involved with the fishing industry off and on and in various guises, I cannot think of any situation that we have faced – and we have faced many – that represents such a genuine and existential threat to both our inshore fishermen and the coastal communities they support, and who in turn support them.

“Unless there is real and direct action now – and I mean now – rather than yet more talk and promises, then everything that this sector represents, provides and supports will be lost, and will never be regained.”

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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