Dear Sir or Madam,
There is a growing despair amongst the older generation of fishermen.
The MCA has changed the rules regarding medicals in an arbitrary way, amongst other things. This has caused a sense of the sword of Damocles hanging over many older fishermen for a couple of years. We feel there is an unwritten and unspoken agenda to “put them out to grass”, or a secret forcible retirement scheme.
There is no doubt there is a justified need for an ENG1 requirement for the offshore fleet. However, to apply this for a small under 6m fishing boat, which stays close to the shore and is crewed by a man who has spent his life farming and fishing, is quite simply over- zealous.
As parliamentary candidates for constituencies which both have inshore fleets (South Devon and Tiverton and Minehead) we know these rules are having a detrimental effect on good, experienced fishermen who simply no longer see a future for themselves. Depression is beginning to overwhelm them. This is no way to treat people who are still fit and willing to work.
As an unintended consequence, more boats are coming on to the market at ever decreasing prices. Licenses are also losing their value. The value of their boats and licenses are a fisherman’s pension. Financial anxiety is stressful and being felt by many because of the MCA’s thoughtless and poorly researched insistence on the ENG1 requirement.
This is not just about money. It is about a way of life, passed down from generation to generation. Fishermen have their own communities, they share the same stories and jokes, and they have an understanding of what makes each other tick. We have seen this when we visit the quaysides in Brixham and Minehead. There is a very real risk, that if cast aside, with no routine, no sense of worth or purpose, coupled with bleak economic prospects, some of these previously vibrant, skilled and fulfilled men will face serious mental health challenges.
Stupid fishermen do not reach old age. Their very lives depend on knowing the seasons and the weather. They know when it’s safe to go and catch, and when to stay in port and sort gear. How dare some bureaucrat, who has never set foot on a fishing boat, dictate what should be personal decisions made by experienced fishermen?
As Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament for South Devon and Tiverton and Minehead, we will support our inshore fleets and fight to rescind this ill-conceived requirement.
Caroline Voaden, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for South Devon
Rachel Gilmour, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Tiverton and Minehead
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