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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Fishermen's threat to blockade harbour lifted

A SHOCK threat by trawlermen to blockade Whitehaven Harbour over the jubilee festival weekend has been called off.

Angry fishermen had also been set to pull their boats out of Whitehaven and move permanently to another port in protest at proposals to charge trawlers coming and going through the harbour’s sea lock.

But the threat was lifted yesterday (Wednesday) after a new deal was struck between Whitehaven Fishermen’s Association and Whitehaven Marina Ltd, which leases water space from the Harbour Commissioners. Also involved in negotiations were Marine Management Organisation and Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners.

All boats using Whitehaven will pay more for landing their catches but there will be no charge for coming and going through the lock or any rise in berthing fees.

Ron Graham, who represents both Whitehaven and North West fishermen on their national body, said the aim was to maintain Whitehaven Harbour as the west coast’s main fishing port.

Mr Graham said: “A blockade was one of the considerations. We did warn the Marina company that desperate people resort to desperate measures. Nobody wanted to leave Whitehaven but neither could we stay here and afford the charge originally proposed.

“Were we to leave Whitehaven we would certainly have been back in numbers for the festival to protest. All kinds of options were talked about to make people aware of our disquiet over the way we were being treated.

“I think we’ve got a lot of support in the town, the county and with the local businesses. All have indicated massive support for what we are trying to do here, not only to try and make things better for ourselves, the boats and the community. If we all pull together now, as I think we will under this new agreement, we can win.”

A spokesman for Whitehaven Marina Ltd said that they were waiting to be formally told of the outcome of the meeting before making a comment.

The deal comes six months after Whitehaven netted a share of a £1.35 million windfall through the European Fisheries Fund and Defra to revive the fishing ports between Ravenglass and Silloth.

After yesterday’s meeting, Whitehaven Fishermen’s Association secretary Mr Graham, a trawlerman himself, said the grant recognised that commercial fishing was in decline and imposing lock gate charges would have been detrimental.

“We would have had to go somewhere cheaper, in effect driven out. Our concerns were that those charges would become unaffordable to us. It would have meant that vessels which had been here for many years would have left Whitehaven. That in my view would have impacted on the European access for funding which was granted last November but proposals have been fine-tuned and accepted by our members.

“There’s now a solution to all parties’ interests. Charging through the lock would have been a costly exercise but that has been withdrawn. There will be an increased charge on landing dues, not just for us but also the transient fleet and the visitors, some of which have high value catches which means they’re paying more.

“It’s an attempt to keep Whitehaven the main west coast fishing port and more attractive to commercial fishing in the North West. You can destroy that quite quickly by making it unaffordable to come here.”

Have your say

The fishermen make the harbour interesting but if we're not careful they'll disappear - if the marina wants to boost its income let the 'yachties' pay more, there are far more of them.

Posted by crisby on 23 April 2012 at 21:06

With the fishing industry already struggling with EU idiotic directives, do we really need to make things harder for ourselves?
A modicum of common sense application will do the 'administrators' a world of good.

Posted by Observer on 21 April 2012 at 00:06

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