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Are UK fishing regulations contributing to Brexit regret?

PUBLISHED: 09:45 26 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:45 26 September 2017

Nicky King, front, chairman of the Wells and District Fisherman's Association, is frustrated by the government's rules on fishing.  Picture: Ian Burt

Nicky King, front, chairman of the Wells and District Fisherman's Association, is frustrated by the government's rules on fishing. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2014

When a large number of fishermen operating from the North Norfolk coast voted for Brexit, they believed it could mean significant improvements to their industry.

But now, a number of them have expressed concerns that growing regulations from the UK government will call that benefit into question.

For almost 50 years, fishermen have faced restrictions on where they operate and how much they can catch under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Many assumed leaving the CFP would mean more freedoms and a significant boost to business - but fishermen in Wells fear the UK government is increasingly imposing restrictive policies.

At the end of August they grew so frustrated with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that they erected large billboards measuring 4ft by 4ft, listing their grievances.

Within a week, Defra requested they were taken down and said that would arrange a meeting with the Wells and District Inshore Fishermans Association.

“We are waiting for a meeting but I dont know if it will make a blind bit difference,” said Nicky King, chairman of the association.

“A lot of the lads thought when we come out of the EU it would be better for us but it seems the UK government is going way over the top compared with what we had with the EU.”

Speaking of whether the conflict with Defra could lead to Brexit regrets, Wells fisherman Andy Frary added: “It could happen, the problem is that they [Defra] are poorly advised and don’t listen to fishermen.”

An example of a Defra policy that is causing particular frustration is the regulation of bass fishing, which was introduced in 2015 to maintain the population.

Boat owner Jonathan Nudds said that due to the policy, a refit of his boat for better equipment and improved safety caused him to lose his bass fishing licence.

“I spent £55,000 on the work and as it was coming to an end they announced they would take the entitlement as we hadn’t caught Bass in set period of time,” he said.

“I sent them receipts and records but they said the evidence was insufficient. I’ve done two appeals and they’ve refused both.”

Defra states on their website that bass fishing regulations exist to “help protect and improve bass stocks”. The EU has also sought to limit bass fishing due to a rapid population decline.

Mr King added that a ban on fishing during breeding season makes sense but if licences are taken then Defra will “pigeon hole” fishermen into catching just one or two species, which would result in a decline of those species.

“I spent £55,000 on the work and as it was coming to an end they announced they would take the entitlement as we hadn’t caught Bass in set period of time,” he said.

“I sent them receipts and records but they said the evidence was insufficient. I’ve done two appeals and they’ve refused both.”

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