Britain’s fishing fleet needs new boats, and skilled workers. Some 60 per cent of our fishing fleet has been scrapped over the years. Continental fisherman have had big subsidies to expand their fleets, while ours has been left to decay.
There must be financial support for skippers to help them upgrade boats and equipment, and investment in training for the fishermen of the future. Existing boats and equipment need quayside services, supplies, repairs and maintenance. The knock-on effects for coastal areas could be considerable.
It is clear – from the “scallop and crab war” of 2018, when French fishermen rammed British vessels and threw stones, metal shackles, petrol bombs and rocket flares or, for those with long memories, the Cherbourg incident – that fishermen will need protection. The Fishery Protection Squadron, (the oldest front-line squadron in the Royal Navy, which also assists with counter-piracy, counter-smuggling, counter-terrorism and border control) will be needed – and to be expanded, too.
In recent years the Squadron has been diverted elsewhere, to patrol the coast of Nicaragua to catch drug smugglers, or to the Mediterranean to assist in the EU-generated people-smuggling crisis. Fishermen need an increase in Marine Enforcement Officers and a greater aerial and at-sea surveillance presence.
The government was forced to reverse its decision to decommission three ships from the Squadron. A decision to build more, and award the contract to BAe Systems in 2013, came just in time. Five new offshore patrol vessels are being built on the Clyde. And yet, astonishingly, the Ministry of Defence has since opened up the procurement of offshore patrol vessels to international competition.
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