Joy James is not alone in being worried about the proposed EU drift netting ban: it’s caused real concern in the fishing community elsewhere too. For example, Peter Caunter, skipper/owner of the under-10m netter Yvonne Anne, wrote in the Fishing News recently that such a ban would have “frightening consequences for the under-10m fleet of the southeast, rendering most redundant. These boats are designed and built solely for the drift net fishery and would not be able to revert to other fishing methods.”
He also argues that the proposed regulations are simply not relevant for the fisheries he works. “The reasons for the proposed ban are due to by-catch of protected species of fish, diving birds, turtles and cetaceans; most of the references given concern the tuna fishery of the Mediterranean,” he wrote. “In recent years there have been several quite details surveys of the inshore fisheries of the south east… As far as I am aware, there have been no reports of any catches of birds of any species; catches of cetaceans are so rare as to be negligible… [and] discards of fish are at a minimum and in some cases non-existent.”
There is also concern on the Dee Estuary in North Wales, where fisherman have launched a petition. “It’s a small industry and drift netting has been carried on by local fisherman for generations,” Dai Hutton, a spokesman for a local fisherman’s association, told ITN. “It would be hard hit by these regulations.” He argues that at the very least there should be an exemption from the ban inside the three-mile fishing limit. “That would allow the little guys, the ones who do the least damage and who fish the most sustainably, to earn a living.”
A Welsh Government spokesman quoted in the Fishing News called the proposals “blunt and inappropriate, particularly as they are based on ‘one-size-fits-all thinking’; something that all member states agree was a failing of the previous [Common Fisheries Policy] programme.” DEFRA also objects to the ban on similar grounds, pointing out that while it supports enforcement for species such as tuna in the Mediterranean, it should not relate to UK drift net fisheries targeting herring and other species.
“These represent an important part of the fishing year and livelihoods relevant inshore fisherman and, most significantly, do not have the serious by-catch or enforcement issues that the Commission is trying to address,” DEFRA has said. “We consider a ban of any kind inappropriate in the context of our UK drift net fishery.”