BLOCKADE THE PORTS – say fishermen after no progress in talks

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Angry fishermen outside DEFRA (the Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs) yesterday
Angry fishermen outside DEFRA (the Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs) yesterday

‘BLOCKADE the Ports’ was the cry that went up from up to 300 fishermen, at the outcome of their meeting yesterday with Jonathan Shaw, Minister for Marine and Fisheries.

They were demanding urgent government measures to compensate for the soaring cost of fuel. Many face ruin in the coming weeks if their fuel costs – up to £2000 per day per boat – are not off set.

Delegations of fishermen from Cornwall, Northern Ireland, Devon, Yorkshire, and many other parts of the UK, waited tensely in the rain to hear if the Brown government would respond to their demands.

French fishermen came all the way to join the action and support their UK counterparts. Their spokesperson said: ‘We came to give solidarity to the UK fishermen who are facing the same problem of fuel price rises which are happening throughout the fishing coast.

‘All European fishermen should stick together and should not be divided by governments.

‘We are demanding a standard European price for all diesel fuel and respect for fishermen all over Europe.’

Coming out of the meeting, Barry Deas, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishing Organisations announced: ‘We are desperately disappointed with the outcome today. The Ministers response to ‘diminimus payments’ were all negative’,

‘Diminimus’ are payments of less than 30,000 euros from the European Commission which governments can pay as subsidies to threatened fishing businesses, and which do not need to be referred to the European Commission.’

Fishermen in France and Spain are already getting these payments and British fishing trawlers are demanding that these should be part of a short-term plan to save the industry here in the UK.

Deas warned: ‘If nothing is done elements of our industry will collapse. You can kill off bits of our industry by not helping.

‘If vessels are tied up, it is nearly impossible to get back out to sea again. Once the fishing is gone from our communities you cannot get them back again.

‘We will take the results of the meeting back to ports, and the executive will meet to decide what to do about it?’

At this point the cry went up ‘Blockade!’.

‘We are not ruling anything out, we will look at the situation and will make judgements about what action to take in the ports.’ Deas said.

Paul Trebilcock of the Cornish Fish Producers said: ‘I would be surprised if the government gives a short-term package.

‘But, the Ministry should be under no illusions, if there is no substantial movement in our direction, we shall take it back to our members around the coast and with the strength of feeling that exists, I’m convinced we will be looking for some form of disruption.