August 5, 2008

Anger Over New Scalloping Ban


South Devon fishermen, already banned from scalloping in 60 square miles of Lyme Bay, have condemned the launch of a new three- year eco-study of the seabed as 'a Government delaying tactic'.

Scalloping is worth more than pounds3million a year to the port of Brixham because it has no catch limit like sole or plaice.

Paignton fisherman Nick Prust, spokesman for the South West Inshore Fishermen's Association, said the pounds400,000 cost of the new Plymouth University study should at least be balanced by financial help to struggling boat owners.

He said: "Personally, I think the money from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs to fund this bio-diversity study is wasted.

"It's a delaying tactic. The green lobby will get what it wants and the fishermen will suffer. We are already struggling against quota limits for other fish and high fuel prices, yet we still have to pay for maintenance and repairs."

Mr Prust confirmed that SWIFA is already seeking urgent advice from specialist lawyers to see if they can mount a 'judicial review' challenge to the Government's banning order.

He said the French marine authorities pay scant attention to conserving vulnerable species like pink sea fans and starfish.

A Defra spokesman confirmed this week that the study of the ecological and economic impact of the Lyme Bay fishing ban is to be led by a team of scientists from Plymouth University.

About 10 per cent of the bay was declared off limits to scallop dredging and bottom trawling on July 11.

The spokesman said that marine researchers will examine the effect this has had on one of Britain's richest marine environments.

It will also look at the financial repercussions for fishermen.

Lyme Bay's reefs are home to an abundance of sea life including rare sponges, corals and starfish.

The new fishing-free zone stretches from West Bay in Dorset to Beer Head in East Devon.

It is now the country's largest-ever marine wildlife protection zone and a favourite hunting ground for the Brixham fleet because scallop-dredging is a valuable harvest.

The spokesman confirmed the researchers will monitor the effect of the ban over three years, using underwater video technology to record the numbers and size of various marine species.

The results will be compared with areas where fishing is still allowed, he added, and findings will be used as a tool for the future environmental management of marine areas.

Researchers will also analyse the social and economic impact on the communities affected by the ban.

Fishing organisations such as the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations and the South West Fish Producer Organisations have universally condemned the ban, enforced after a voluntary ' take zone' in three smaller areas of the bay was carefully observed from 2007 by local fishing boats.

Mr Prust said the latest wider ban 'has cut us off at the knees'.

"We've been trying to build bridges with conservation groups like Natural England and now this blanket ban," he said.

"There's another meeting of boat owners at Weymouth on August 14 and hopefully we will get legal advice by then about a possible judicial review."

(c) 2008 Herald Express (Torquay UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.