Defra has denied Labour Candidate, Fred Thomas’ accusations made in relation to the pollack fishing ban on the BBC South West Politics Show
The UK government has challenged criticism over its handling on the imposing of a ban on pollack fishery in the south of England.
Former Royal Marine Captain and Labour, PCC Plymouth Moor View, Fred Thomas, voiced his concerns on the BBC Politics South West show, accusing the government of leaving small-scale inshore fishermen stranded without pollack to catch come 01 January 2024.
Thomas criticised the government’s decision to implement a zero quota for pollack, as recommended by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). Inshore fishermen, heavily reliant on pollack for their livelihoods, argue that the impact of the zero quota is disastrous. They accuse the government of a lack of forward planning, despite being aware of the ICES advice since June.
Pollack constitutes a significant portion of earnings for many small-scale fishermen in the southwest, making up 80-100% of their income. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been accused of a lack of understanding of the inshore sector, with calls for alternative solutions, considering the absence of other fish quotas available.
Fred Thomas accused the government of being out of touch and ill-prepared for the consequences. He emphasised the significant impact on fishermen, their families, communities, and associated industries, condemning the government’s failure as “shameful.”
He continued, “It is the job of government to look after public assets. Fish is a public asset. The government should be monitoring fish stocks throughout the year, across the years doing proper data collection. It hasn’t been doing that, that’s clear, but then Martin (host) they get this news.
“The scientific advice was six months ago that we’re looking at potentially a nil quota are no fish allowed to be caught in January what have they done for the last six months to provide work arounds and other solutions. I can tell you what they’ve done nothing that is why we’re now looking at terrible news for communities in Plymouth and across the southwest.”
Defra responded to these allegations, stating that the claims made by Mr. Thomas are incorrect. They highlighted that ICES published their zero-catch advice for pollack on30 June 2023, and Defra had engaged with industry representatives during an annual science/stakeholder event on 18 July 2023. Defra asserted that they have regularly communicated with the industry on the impact of a zero Total Allowable Catches (TAC) quota and negotiated with the EU to address bycatch needs.
Regarding negotiations on catch limits, Defra emphasised that their approach is based on the latest scientific advice and is balanced with commitments to economic sustainability. They acknowledged the potential implications of a zero TAC fishery for pollack and are actively exploring possible actions to mitigate the impact with industry representatives.
In terms of support for fishermen targeting pollack, Defra stated that the UK has secured a large bycatch TAC for this stock and is actively exploring various actions to address the impact on the sector. A bycatch TAC has also been set for area 6 (West of Scotland) to account for unavoidable bycatch caught while targeting other fisheries in that area.