The UK Government has been blasted by Conservative and Labour MPs alike for allowing EU fishermen to take essential UK fish. The UK’s ability to fish for Spurdog, an important species of fish sold in chip shops across the country, has been crippled by bureaucracy, with the UK having not yet passed the necessary legislation to allow British fishermen to catch it. The EU, however, has been allowed to access the Spurdog market since 1st January 2023.
Conservative MP Peter Aldous and Labour MP Luke Pollard have both raised the issue, with the latter warning the legislative failure is “screwing over” British fishermen.
Spurdog – also known as Rock Salmon – has been in decline for years, causing the EU to ban fishermen from catching it until the start of this year.
But the UK has not yet introduced legislation allowing fishermen to catch the species.
In the meantime, EU fishers are able to catch Spurdog and sell the fish to UK markets, causing concern among the fishing community that much of the market will be taken by the EU.
“This is deeply frustrating because we should have a better type of fishing regulation. But it doesn’t seem that we’ve got there.”
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on fishing quotas, Mr Pollard asked Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer “to explain why EU fishers can catch Spurdog and why UK fishers still can’t”.
“I’m wondering why is there a delay in the UK being able to allow fishers to do so, and in particular, how is it that we are now slower than if we were in the EU previously to catch that particular stock?”
He added: “There is a concern amongst fishers that this is the new modus operandi from Government – that the UK fish policy will be set at a continuing pace behind EU fish policy.”
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Tory MP Peter Aldous expressed the same concern, adding: “Off the East Anglian coast, the onshore fishermen who fish sustainably with long lines and nets cannot catch Spurdog at the moment, but EU trawlers can.
“Does the Minister share my vision that we should have a fisheries management plan that embraces the ICES recommendation on limited-catch fishery for spurdog and enables local East Anglian fishermen, fishing responsibly, to catch it?”
Mr Spencer said the delay is because the UK has “a respectful democratic process by which we have to bring forward a statutory instrument”.
He added: “That statutory instrument is drafted and we are ready to roll with that, and we are waiting for business managers to find us a slot. We want to do that as quickly as possible to allow people to get out there and catch Spurdog.”