Cornish fishermen slam ‘disaster’ Brexit deal

The latest instalment of Cornwall: This Fishing Life – the last episode in the series – focused on the constant battle between British and French fishermen, as a result of EU rules and regulations.

In the latest BBC Two episode, Cornish fishermen from Newlyn told of the struggles they face on a daily basis when it comes to the area in which they are allowed to fish.

EU regulations give Cornish fishermen a fishing zone which extends just six miles from the coast.

Other fishing boats in Europe, such as those bigger vessels from France and Belgium, are allowed to fish as close as six to 12 miles from our coastline.

Yet, the same rules don’t apply for British fishermen off of the coast of France.

One fishermen from Newlyn said: “We’re not allowed to fish within 12 miles of the French coast, so why are they allowed in our six?

“It may not sound much, but they spend a lot of time between our six and 12 mile limits and catch a lot of fish.”

While another added: “It isn’t right, it isn’t fair. Well, it is if you’re French – not if you’re British. Or Cornish.

“That’s why a lot of fishermen voted out.”

You can stay up to date on the top news and events near you with CornwallLive’s FREE newsletters – enter your email address at the top of the page.

If the zone was extended, it would double the fishing area for the fishing fleet of Newlyn – Cornwall’s biggest, with a day fishing total of 100 boats.

It would also see more boats land their fish at Newlyn’s fish market, which, in the episode, was faced with the prospect of having to change its shout-auction to an online clock auction in order to modernise the market and try to ensure utter transparency for the selling of fish, before Brexit negotiations were finalised.

Fisherman with two fish in his hands, on his fishing boat out at sea
Cornwall: This Fishing Life episode six – the final episode is set in Newlyn
(Image: BBC)

However, the British weather also plays a part in shining a light on the unfairness of the situation for our local fishermen.

When the swell size gets so big that the smaller boats of the Cornish fleet are unable to go out and fish, as it would be “suicidal” to head out in such weather, the bigger fishing boats of other European countries take the opportunity to clear the 6-12 mile radius of all the fish they can.

One fisherman, while pointing to a screen used to track boats out at sea, told of a number of fishing boats from the likes of France and Belgium who were out in between the 6-12 mile zone off the Cornish coast in severe weather, when they could have easily gone elsewhere.

At any one time, on a day with bad weather, there could be as many as 20 French boats alone fishing that close to the coastline, despite being built for much deeper sea fishing anywhere else in the world.

He said: “The most unsustainable fishing going on in our waters right now is being done by the EU boats. They’ve almost had my nets away a few times.”

“It’s in our interest to fish sustainably because it’s on our doorstep. We rely on it 100% of the year, whereas these boats come in and they can wipe out an area and go onto the next place, really.

“It’s likely that when Brexit happens we will get our 12-mile limit back.

“It’s yet to be seen, but I hope.”

Of course, later in the episode, the fishermen watched Prime Minister Boris Johnson announce that it could take some five years before the 12-mile limit makes a return.

The fishermen called the trade deal agreement “a lousy deal”, “a disaster” and said there was a lot of “anger and disappointment” from the fishing community.

Head Auctioneer at Newlyn Fish Market, Ian Oliver, said that some boats “may even have to tie up until it’s sorted”.

Cornwall Live