Storms: Damage and Disruption

10th February 2014 in Domestic Fisheries Policy

It is not exactly unknown for the weather in January to disrupt fishing operations, even for the largest vessels; but the severity and scale of the relentless series of gales this year is taking a very heavy toll.

It is not exactly unknown for the weather in January to disrupt fishing operations, even for the largest vessels; but the severity and scale of the relentless series of gales this year is taking a very heavy toll.

Tony Delahunty, Chairman of the NFFO South East Committee, and NFFO Chairman-elect, commented:

“From the Thames to the West Country, the relentless ferocity of the wind has affected all fishermen from small inshore boats to the larger vessels. There has been no let up in this weather since the middle of December and looking forward the forecast for this week is more of the same.

“Fishermen are not earning any money; they also grave concerns about the damage the gales have caused to fixed gear. After a poor start last year they are taking another battering and the money has to be found to replace pots, rope, etc. It is a desperately worrying time.”

“The combination of high tides and extreme gales has hammered infrastructures, including vessels, harbours, sea defences and gears. The costs will run into many millions. Furthermore, the fish markets ashore are struggling because there is no product. Looting is apparently emerging as a problem.”

“The heavy swell has caused major damage to sea defences, harbours and shingle beaches. There are also real concerns for the stocks as, crabs, lobsters and whelks are being found washed up on the beach.

“All of this amounts to a serious setback for the industry at a time when the boats have enough to contend with, adapting to new marine protected areas, quota reductions and the imminent arrival of a discard ban.”

Irish Sea

Across the Irish Sea, fishermen are also struggling to get out in their boats and the concern is that there could be a repeat of last winter when persistent gales and unseasonably bad weather prevented fishermen from going to sea. It was so prolonged that fishermen were eventually granted hardship funds from the Northern Ireland Executive.

While it is in the fishermen’s favour that a precedent has already been set in terms of accessing financial support, the Northern Irish fishing industry is conscious of not becoming dependent upon subsidies. However, these are exceptional circumstances arising from an unprecedented weather pattern justifying urgent government intervention.

North Sea and Mackerel

“In the North Sea whitefish and the pelagic fisheries are facing different but equally serious problems. The delay in resolving the mackerel dispute with Iceland and the Faeroes is having a knock-on effect on the EU/Norway agreement which should have been settled by now. All this adds up to a very troubling time for our industry.”