Stephen Lloyd MP writes… A better future for our coastal communities and inshore waters

imageFor the past few years in my role as MP for Eastbourne, I have been working with residents and councillors from across the political spectrum on an outstanding, £80million redevelopment plan for Eastbourne’s harbour. Together we have drawn up plans which aim to bring 1,500 jobs, new and affordable housing, as well as leisure activities to the community.

Eastbourne, like so many other towns on the coast, has suffered a great deal during the past few years as a result of the recession; but these harbour plans are a clear sign that things are getting better as we begin to grasp the huge potential that living on the coast has to offer. Integral to the Sovereign Harbour plans is a brilliant initiative, led by fishermen from the area, to include a fishing quay with a visitors centre. This will bring significant benefits to the local fishing industry, as well as transform the character of the harbour giving it a lively, working atmosphere – contributing to tourism in the area.

However, the overall picture for our small-scale fishermen – and the small-scale boats across the country making up nearly 80% of the UK’s overall fleet – is not an optimistic one. Plans like ours for Eastbourne’s harbour can only go so far to support local fishermen. But they are such an important part of our cultural and industrial heritage and are also capable of giving coastal communities a much needed additional economic boost.

Recently, I signed up to become a Coastal Champion; advocating the policy recommendations laid out by the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA) and Greenpeace in their joint action plan, ‘Championing Coastal Waters and Communities’. The plan focuses on five key demands relating to the implementation of the new, reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – the reforms to which represent a landmark achievement by this Government.

The central theme to this action plan is that the new CFP presents a perfect opportunity to support low impact fishermen, who have been working on the sea for generations and who represent the vast majority of the UK’s fishing fleet but receive so little of the UK’s fishing quota (just 4% last year). Over the next year we have the chance to fix a system that’s been broken for too long. We must ensure representation for this sector at the highest levels of negotiation; favouring this fleet when allocating fishing quota; prioritising access for their boats in our inshore waters. It is vital that we properly consult the small scale fleet over ways to restore fish stocks and protect the marine environment which benefits them in the long term, whilst protecting such a valuable resource.

These proposals are not unrealistic, nor are they far-fetched – they are the sensible conclusions with a strong legal basis in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. They promise to reinvigorate the UK’s fishing industry by providing job security, increasing jobs in the sector and giving local fishermen enough catch to earn living. Due to the fact that the boats are smaller, and so the fishing gear is more selective and less environmentally damaging, these proposals will also help protect the marine environment.

The hard work of reforming the Common Fisheries Policy – highly problematic for so many years – has been done; now is the time for action. Putting local fishermen first just makes sense both economically and environmentally. I look forward to working with colleagues from across all parties to push for these policies to be adopted because I know what a difference it will make – in Eastbourne’s new harbour, and in many other coastal communities.

PHoto above of Eastbourne Soverign harbour Some rights reserved by ukelt

* Stephen Lloyd was MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon until 2015. He was chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education. In March 2013 the Group published a report called ‘RE: the truth unmasked’ on the supply of and support for RE teachers. In June 2013 Stephen tabled an Early Day Motion on RE’s role in tackling extremism.

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