Fisherman accuse Defra of helping EU ships operate inside UK waters | Politics | News

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Pro-Brexit Fishing for Leave says the Government is “complicit in corruption and scandal” after Defra hosted a meeting between the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) and Dutch fishing group VisNed. 

The NFFO and the Dutch group were meeting to reach an agreement to restrict Dutch pulse fishing vessels operating in “some of the most sensitive areas off the English coast”, according to the NFFO.

Pulse fishing uses devices to send electricity into the seabed where it disturbs marine life, with the aim of causing fish to move into the nets.

Barrie Deas, the NFFO’s chief executive, said: “Pulse fishing is a highly controversial and emotive issue at present.

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Government faces accusations that Defra helped a group of Dutch fishermen operate inside UK waters

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NFFO and the Dutch group were meeting to reach an agreement to restrict Dutch pulse fishing vessels


We feel it’s grossly unfair that the questionable meeting was held on Defra’s premises

Alan Hastings – Fishing for Leave spokesman


“The extent to which pulse fishing is more or less impactful on the marine environment than conventional beam trawling is currently being studied. 

“The outcome of this research will be significant in shaping future policy.”

However, Fishing for Leave insists the NFFO does not truly represent the interests of British fishermen in the argument, because its membership is made up of around “70 percent EU flagships”, a figure disputed by Mr Deas.

Fishing for Leave spokesman Alan Hastings said: “Flagships are vessels which belong to EU fishing companies, but which could register shell companies in Britain under the right to ‘freedom of establishment’ under the EU’s four freedoms.

“This allowed large EU fishing companies to start buying out struggling domestic British family fishing businesses as the EU’s disastrous Common Fisheries Policy crippled Britain’s fishing fleet as it lost its traditional fishing grounds and over half its resources to EU control.”

“Devastatingly, official government information, from the Government’s Companies House website  and the FQA registrar, shows that EU ‘flagships’ now constitute 70 percent of the NFFO.

“The NFFO with 70 percent of its memberships is directly influencing Defra in the Brexit discussions and fishermen cite the recent meeting of the NFFO with a hand-picked audience of Dutch pulse interests at the NFFO tries to exercise its influence to allow its EU financiers to continue to use pulse fishing.

“We feel it’s grossly unfair that the questionable meeting was held on Defra’s premises. Why is the Government getting involved in a private meeting between two private organisations?

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Fishing for Leave question why Defra is getting involved in a meeting between two organisations

“We’re aggrieved and upset that Defra is opening themselves up to looking complicit in allowing foreign ships to use questionable fishing methods in our waters.

“Many British fishermen are increasingly incensed that the NFFO masquerade as British while protecting the interest of EU flagship fishing companies to the detriment of British coastal communities.”

Both the NFFO and Defra said the Government department had no involvement in the meetings, simply providing a meeting room for the event.

A Defra spokesman said: “The NFFO has been holding talks with its Dutch counterparts on pulse fishing with a view to reaching a voluntary agreement avoiding the use of pulse in certain sensitive fisheries.

“Defra has not been involved in these discussions. On one occasion we provided a meeting room.”

The NFFO’s chief executive, Mr Deas, said ‘under 10 percent’ of his organisation is comprised of EU flagships, adding the body does not have “undue influence” over the Government, bemoaning Defra for not even providing coffee for their meetings with the Dutch.

He said: “Following a meeting between Dutch pulse fishermen and English inshore fishermen, just before Christmas, a voluntary agreement has been reached through which the Dutch pulse vessels will refrain from operating in some the most sensitive areas off the English coast.

“The meeting was brokered by NFFO and VisNed, but the areas were suggested in the meeting by fishermen working directly in the fisheries concerned.

“The agreement is without prejudice to any future evidence-based policies which may be adopted by the authorities, or further voluntary agreements.”

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