Last week I visited the Old Low Light Heritage Centre in North Shields to see their fantastic “That’s Women’s Work’ exhibition telling the story of “Herring Girls.” I was honoured to meet one of the few women skippers whose story is also told.
We talked about the heyday of fishing in North Shields, the body blow from the “Cod Wars” with Iceland and the defects of the Common Fisheries Policy. But it’s the current state of the industry which is of immediate concern.
A Cost Benefit Analysis of the fisheries deal was published recently by the National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisation, written by a former DEFRA official and lead fisheries negotiators. The Government claimed that leaving the EU would benefit the industry by more than £148 million by 2026. The actual projected loss is more than £300 million. That’s because of the quota deal but also the failure to get a deal with Norway or the Faroe Islands. There’s also the estimated £24 million a year in additional red tape around catch and health certificates and border checks. Some EU markets which were critical for North Shields prawns have virtually collapsed.
Fishing was the pin up industry of the Leave Campaign but it is increasingly clear that the Government never had a plan or at least one that would work. My regular contact with Defra Ministers suggests they are at a loss as to what to do next. Unless they can come up with a better way forward fishing risks becoming little more than an exhibition recording its past.”