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Environmental sustainability must be at the heart of the Fisheries Bill

Environmental sustainability must be at the heart of the Fisheries Bill

This is our chance to improve the lives of fishers and people from coastal communities, writes Stephanie Peacock MP. | PA Images

3 min read

The Conservatives have fallen short of their 2019 manifesto commitment to create a legally binding framework for fish stocks to be fished at sustainable levels.

For years now, the distribution of fishing opportunities in the UK has been unfair and outdated. Our fishers have been dealt a raw deal, leaving many in fishing communities facing declining job opportunities and wages.

The recent Covid-19 lockdown has hit coastal communities hard.

These areas often rely on seaside tourism, retail and hospitality industries. Coupled with a legacy of high unemployment, poor transport infrastructure and investment from the Government, it is no wonder that many people feel ignored.

But, Labour sees the upcoming Fisheries Bill as a real opportunity for change. A chance to rejuvenate the economies of seaside towns and fishing villages while placing environmental sustainability at the heart of fisheries management.

We need sustainable fisheries management to stop overfishing and ensure our UK fishing industry’s survival.

It was therefore a significant win that Labour’s Peers were able to pass an amendment to the Fisheries Bill stating that the majority of fish caught in UK waters must be landed in UK ports.  This will protect jobs at sea and create many more on land, all of which are desperately needed to protect and rejuvenate the economies of our coastal communities.  

This alone though isn’t enough.

For our coastal areas to properly flourish we need to see fishing quotas distributed more fairly. The Government has always had the power to do this but has so far failed. We are calling on them to support our small boats.

Fishers in under-10m boats represent 79% of the UK fishing fleet but hold only 2% of the quota. Labour wants to right this wrong, supporting the smaller, more environmentally friendly vessels on which local communities and economies rely. Local economic and environmental criteria should be prioritised when the quota is distributed.

The fishers operating in and out of our coastal towns and villages are the original stewards of our oceans – what is good for the fish is good for them.  So we must make this a Sustainable Fisheries Bill, with environmental protection and restoration of the rich diversity of our oceans at its heart.

Despite promising in their 2019 manifesto to deliver, “a legal commitment to fish sustainability”, the Conservatives have fallen short of their promise to create a legally binding framework for fish stocks to be fished at sustainable levels.

We need sustainable fisheries management to stop overfishing and ensure our UK fishing industry’s survival.

It is Labour’s job to ensure the Government delivers on its commitments to protect the health of our seas, our seaside towns, fishing fleets and industry.

We will soon have control of our waters for the first time in 45 years.

This is our chance to improve the lives of fishers and people from coastal communities.  

They deserve a better, fairer deal.

 

Stephanie Peacock is the Labour MP for Barnsley East and shadow fisheries minister. 

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