Britain’s fishing industry

Rising fuel prices could wreck Britain’s fishing industry

Britain’s fishing industry could collapse due to the rising price of marine diesel, an industry leader warned today.

The soaring price of red diesel affected the profits of all fishermen, from the deep sea beam trawlers to smaller craft.

“I fear a collapse of the industry which would take not just boats, but entire communities which are dependent on fish, and that is not in anybody’s interest,” said South West Fish Producers Organisation chief executive Jim Portus.

“I am surprised we have not seen businesses being declared bankrupt,” he added.

When owners were paying up to 33p a litre for fuel, as they have been recently, then they were making a loss on voyages.

Although the price was now down to 30p a litre, predictions are that fuel costs would rise again, said Mr Portus.

The industry was battling its most serious crisis – worse than the “rocky times” of the 2000 fuel lobby, when fishermen picketed the refinery gates.

“It really is make or break time for many owners,” said Mr Portus. “The only thing that can save them is a much higher price for fish or bumper catches – and we are approaching a much better fishing period.”

The price of fish was high at the moment as some costs were being passed to the consumer.

“But there is pressure for a higher price for fish at the quayside to make it more likely boats can keep going to sea,” he said.

Mr Portus said there had yet to be a response from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) over last week’s proposal from fishery leaders for aid to help with the fuel price rises or cash for decommissioning craft.

“We are at Defra’s mercy,” said Mr Portus who stressed that the department was “very much responsible for the well-being of the industry.”

He said Defra, through annual quota negotiations, had the mechanism to ensure the UK fleet had the best fishing opportunities available.

“We are looking to Defra to make sure our opportunities are maximised in the Council of Ministers at the end of the year,” said Mr Portus.

The UK fishing fleet had halved in size over the past five years, and now had less than 2,000 craft under 10 metres.

“We want to tie up or decommission to get the rest of the way to a fleet level which is sustainable and profitable,” said Mr Portus.

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