Fisherman and Chairman

Posted on 04/11/14 by Tony Delahunty

NFFO Chairman, Tony Delahunty, introduces our new blog with his reflections from the south coast, upcoming challenges and heading up the Federation.

I’m an inshore fisherman, working an under-10m vessel, the Robert Louise, from Selsey, on the South coast. We fish for crab lobster, bass, sole, plaice and rays. Inshore fishing is highly seasonal so our target catch is dependent on what is available in our waters at any one time.

I’ve been fishing since 1975 and fishing has its ups and downs. The last 2 years have been amongst the most challenging in my career. First the cold winter of 2012/13 badly affected crab catches; and then the ferocious winter storms last winter that went on forever, meant that we just couldn't get to sea. No fishing = no income. Many inshore fishermen like me are in the same boat.

I have been honoured to be elected Chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations and I took over my duties in May. The NFFO gives fishermen an opportunity to voice the industry’s views at the highest levels, whether in Whitehall or Brussels. And the Executive Committee, which I now chair, allows us to highlight problems that we see on a day to day basis. It’s very much a team effort. There is a huge amount of experience and knowledge around the Exec table from skippers of 6 metre vessels to operators of vessels that are 60 metres plus. And from all parts of the coast.

The major issues that we face at present on this part of the coast are the proposed drift net ban and bass conservation measures. The looming consequences of the EU landings obligation are a big worry too. The drift net ban, if it’s not blocked, could end many small scale- fisheries around here. It does seem to be an extreme example of the worst kind of EU one-size-fits-all approach. We support sensible conservation measures for bass but again, they have to make sense at local level. I am strongly opposed to creating a new TAC for bass that wouldn’t address the problems whilst creating a raft of new problems.

As for the landings obligation it is going to be all about the detail. It is essential for the authorities to talk to fishermen about how it will be implemented and what it will mean at boat level.

Fishing has been unfairly treated in the mainstream media in recent years and I am glad that the work being done is slowly turning the tide. Recently the Times, BBC Newsnight, BBC Today Programme, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph have carried stories that counter the usual stream of lazy and ill-informed nonsense. I am hopeful that my recent appearance at the BBC rural affairs committee will have helped in this respect.

To contribute to the blog, please contact nffo@nffo.org.uk.

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