The recent service for Lost Fishermen and Seafarers in North Shields was a timely reminder of just how dangerous the fishing industry is. On average a fisherman dies each week, making fishing the UK’s most dangerous peacetime occupation. Yet over the next few months local fishermen may be forced to go further for longer to make a living in fishing grounds under increasing pressure.
For most fishermen along the North East coast the nephrops fishery – prawns to you and I – is the staple catch, in a season which usually runs from October to April. More than 60 boats depend on the prawn fishery, all under 18 metres, most under 10 metres, it’s a fishery which sustains stocks and around 1000 jobs in the industry. Now that’s under threat from bigger, nomadic boats from Ireland and Scotland muscling in on the catch and threatening to overfish.
At this point Euro critics usually wag their finger at the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy. But this is a home grown problem, needing a home grown solution. As I warned in the last fisheries debate and again in a recent letter to the Minister, Ministers need to act to protect the nephrops fishery in the Farne Deeps, defend the local fleets or devolve the power Ministers have to our region to protect our own. Most MP’s aspire to be a Minister so when Ministers have the power why won’t they use it?