THE future of Suffolk’s fishing industry continues to be under threat from unfair quotas that are in urgent need of reform, it was warned last night.

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Current limits on the amount of fish that boats under 10m can catch mean many fishermen are being forced to quit, it has been claimed. Places including Aldeburgh and Lowestoft have seen the number of small scale fishermen drop drastically in recent years - putting the future of the industry at risk. The amount of fish that vessels are allowed to catch is set out by the EU in the Common Fisheries Policy. It varies according to time of year, type of catch and location but on average under 10m boats have access to just 4% of the overall quota - despite making up 77% of the UK’s fishing fleet. The policy is now being negotiated in Brussels and fishermen in Suffolk want a fairer deal.

Richard Marson, chairman of the Aldeburgh Fishermen’s Association, said 20 years ago there used to be around 12 under 10m boats operating from the town - now there are just five. “The share of quota given to small boats is extremely unsatisfactory,” he said. “At the moment it’s not enough to make a living. As a result there is an absence of young people coming into the business - it’s not worth their while.”

Fisherman Kirk Stribling, from Aldeburgh, added: “We are the pinnacle of conservation fishing, but we’re right at the bottom of the pile with everyone stamping on top of us and it’s ripping the heart out of coastal communities.”

Jerry Percy, chief executive of the New Under Ten Fishermens Association (NUTFA), said the current system was unfair as many larger “non fishermen” corporations were able to buy quotas - forcing smaller boats to lease them if they wanted to catch more. “People are being forced to pay for the privilege of something they have done for generations,” he said. “It’s immoral and one of the things that needs to change.”

Mr Percy said there needed to be greater support for under 10m boats - especially as these were fishing sustainably and having less impact on fish stocks than larger fleets.

NUTFA has joined forces with Greenpeace for the Be a Fisherman’s Friend campaign, which is calling for changes. People can show their support at this weekend’s Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival at Snape Maltings by visiting a stall manned by the Orford and District Inshore Fishermen’s Association.

The Marine Management Organisation, the regulatory body for the UK’s fishing industry, said it welcomed changes and was working hard to find an alternative to current policy. Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon has said he is committed to reform.

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