Fishermen celebrate victory

FISHERMEN who feared for their livelihoods because of a proposed ban on commercial fishing in the Orwell and Stour rivers are today celebrating victory.

FISHERMEN who feared for their livelihoods because of a proposed ban on commercial fishing in the Orwell and Stour rivers are today celebrating victory.

The crews campaigned against moves to stop fishing boats going into an area stretching upstream for eight miles from Harwich Harbour to allow the sections of river to be used for recreational angling only.

A number of fishermen from Felixstowe Ferry and Harwich fish in the rivers, and even sometimes crews from Aldeburgh and Orford.

Helen and John Butcher, of Mill Lane, Trimley St Martin, have fished the rivers for 35 years and felt the ban would have had an enormous impact.


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"It would have threatened our livelihood and that of many other fishermen who take their boats there regularly," said Mrs Butcher, of the Felixstowe Ferry Fishermen's Association.

"No-one over-fishes the river and we don't go there in winter, or when there is weed or jellyfish.

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"We were all very up set at the proposal to ban us from a traditional fishing ground and one where anglers and fishermen have always fished side by side without any problems - especially as we didn't find out about it until it had been under discussion for 18 months!"

The proposal was rejected by the Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee.

"We are thrilled - this is a real victory. But now we will have to keep a close eye on what happens in the future to make sure it is not put forward again," she said.

Anglers though were not so happy with the outcome.

They said the plan to make the estuaries a recreational sea angling fishery would have brought new business to the area and of the 120 responses to it, only 31 opposed it and the other 89 all supported some measure of change.

Tom Pinborough, a member of the conservation group of the National Federation of Sea Anglers, said there was "overwhelming support" to develop recreational fishing to benefit local economies. There are a million sea anglers in the UK spending £1 billion a year on their sport.

"The extent of the commercial fishing there is being exaggerated. The Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee dramatically changed its position from last October when we received a very positive initial response to our proposal," he said.

Richard Ferré, chairman of the conservation group, said: "We feel it is a grossly unfair decision and falls far short of delivering the best value to the local economy.

" It protects a small commercial interest and ignores a much larger opportunity for recreational sea angling to benefit the area."

Evidence submitted by the fishermen reassured the committee crews abide by quota levels and only use estuaries for short periodic fishing, bass is plentiful, and there were other rivers far more suitable as recreational fishing zones.

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