This is why small-scale local fishermen fear being ‘put out of business’

Littlehampton fishermen have spoken out about law changes which could affect their livelihood.

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 1:24 pm

Together, Sean and Bill Hunter have fished Littlehampton’s waters for more than 85 years.

But the father and son duo fear the ‘life could be squeezed’ from their livelihood by laws to stop them fishing near the coast.

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DM19101770a.jpg. Fishermen angry by change to fishing laws which means they cannot fish near the shore. Sean Hunter, left and his dad Bill. Photo by Derek Martin Photography.

Sean, 50, from Sutton, near Petworth, said: “We love what we do; it is a way of life to us.

“But then you get people putting pressure on us, when we have done this for so many years as a sustainable fishery.

“It isn’t nice when people are trying to squeeze the life out of every last little bit that you do.”

The Sussex Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority wants to introduce a byelaw which could mean Bill and Sean would need a permit to fish using nets, and would stop them netting between 0.5 and 1.5km from the coast ‘to protect both migratory and juvenile fish stocks’.

But the pair said they use nets with holes bigger than the legal minimum to protect young fish, and that it would be another financial pressure after a permit for shellfish potting was introduced.

Sean fishes from the 6.4m-long Doodlebug and Bill from the 5.8m-long Elsie-Kay; only one other fisherman in Littlehampton Harbour has a boat smaller than 7m. They said the rules would force them into waters beyond what was safe for the size of their boats.

Bill, 77, from East Preston, said the rules felt like Sussex IFCA ‘were putting their feet on small businessmen and putting us out of business’. He said: “When I came here, there were 40 of us. We worked damn hard, seven days a week. But now it has depleted and depleted.”

Dr Sean Ashworth from Sussex IFCA said: “I would like to emphasise that the purpose and intention of the Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority is to help create sustainable fisheries that support the local commercial industry. We are currently consulting on two proposed byelaws. One is for nearshore trawling and one is for netting. We are a byelaw making authority.

“The aim of the trawling management is to protect vital habitats that fish use for breeding, feeding and nursery grounds. The aim of the netting management is to principally protect migrating fish. Many of these fish, such as sea trout, migrate at the sea surface and the regulations require the nets to be set 1.5m below the surface. The netting management proposed is a review of existing management.

“With regard to the smaller boats of under 7m, then we have expressly put exemptions in the proposed byelaw that allow them closer inshore than the larger vessels.

“The IFCA is proposing a permit system so that we can better manage the wider fishery. Any charges are minimal to cover basic administrative costs. We already have a charged permit system for shellfish potting which allows us to manage that fishery more effectively.

“All stakeholder responses to the consultation will be considered before a final byelaw is sent to the Secretary of State for confirmation. Sussex IFCA staff engaged with local fisherman at drop in sessions held at Littlehampton and Selsey Town Halls as part of the consultation process in September.”

To find out more about the consultation, which ends on Thursday (October 10), click here.