Small-scale fishermen in Eastbourne breathed a sigh of relief as they took the first step towards avoiding a potentially disastrous ban on drift net fishing in the area.
The European Union voted this week to decide whether to put a blanket ban on all drift nets, which are a type of fishing gear that trawls the surface of the ocean and can have damaging effects on the environment if they are used on a larger scale.
Implementing such a ban would affect the livelihoods of many small-scale fishermen in Eastbourne and Hastings and so the move was met with fierce opposition from the fishing industry.
The European Parliament met this week and voted to only ban the most harmful drift nets of more than 2.5km long, which are usually used by commercial fishermen and large boats in the Mediterranean that can have a deadly impact on protected species such as turtles and dolphins.
South East MEP Catherine Bearder pushed for small-scale fishermen to be exempt from the new EU ban on drift nets. She said, “A blanket ban on all drift nets would hit many small-scale fishermen, who are fishing sustainably and responsibly.
“It’s right that we are tightening up the rules to stop the most harmful drift nets, which can be devastating to the marine environment.
“We cannot keep taking stuff from the sea without knowing what’s going on underneath and what’s happening to the species. We know fish stocks are being depleted in every sea on the planet.
“However, restricting small-scale inshore fishing along the south coast, which is amongst the most sustainable in Europe, would be completely counterproductive.
“I am glad MEPs saw sense this week, and will continue fighting for a sensible approach that protects both the environment and the livelihoods of local fishermen.”
Another vote to confirm new rules is expected in the fisheries committee in March.