Fishermen threaten blockade of ports

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The Independent Online
FISHERMEN'S leaders last night threatened to blockade British ports as anger mounted over cheap fish imports.

The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO) said blockades were 'definitely a possibility' if the imports, mainly from Russia and Norway, did not stop.

The warning came after fishermen in Wales yesterday destroyed five tons of French cod following attacks on British catches in France. Crates of fish were overturned at an auction in Milton Haven, Dyfed, where the haul was being graded for shipping to France.

The disturbance followed protests by fishermen in Peterhead and Grimsby on Tuesday. At Peterhead diesel oil was poured on fish in a Russian boat and in Grimsby sale of fish from a French vessel was prevented.

The protests were condemned by David Curry, an agriculture minister, in the House of Commons. He conceded that there was a problem with fish imports but said that the large volume of landings by our own fleet must not be overlooked.

'We saw, for example, huge landings of small haddocks landed at Peterhead in a single day. This is something that fishermen themselves must tackle. It is most important that they phase their catches carefully.'

However, Richard Banks, chief executive of the NFFO, said that the dumping of poor quality fish was the real issue. 'The Russians have plenty of fish . . . they are desperate for hard currency so they are dumping their fish on the Community. Prices are half what they were last year,' he said. 'Fishermen's incomes have fallen by 30 to 40 per cent. What we need is a more realistic tariff to prevent dumping.'

However, Mr Curry said that prices for white fish had been unusually high for the past three years and that fish may need to find a new price level.

The Fisheries Council, meeting in Brussels next week, will discuss the problem but British fishermen say a settlement is unlikely until after the French elections.