When I was first elected in 2010, I carefully chose the subject for my Maiden Speech which is always a terrifying moment for an MP. I chose to make it about jobs - of the present and the future - and specifically about protecting our fishing industry. Since then, I have been fighting for our fishermen to get a fairer share of quota allocation. I have often met with Minister George Eustice MP and had local fishermen raise their concerns directly to the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to see what Government can to do help. The quota is now significantly more than it was in recent years.
Last year, I was approached by several local fishermen who were concerned they would not be able to raise funding for a new icemaker as the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) had gone back on their offer to provide 80% of the funding and offered to provide 60% instead. Following writing to the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, I was pleased with his response that the MMO would now pay 80% of the cost of the new icemaker with the other 20% being covered by the local authority. These are the situations which are hugely rewarding to me as an MP, and demonstrate that Government listens to those in need.
Michael Gove will be coming down to Hastings to visit local fishermen and hear their concerns face to face later this year. This is a good opportunity to see what more can be done about securing the quota allocation which local fishermen currently have to work with. Our fishing industry is vital to our town’s economic success, culture, and identity and I will do my utmost to support it in every way I can.
I have also met with Minister David Rutley MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for DEFRA last Wednesday. In an encouraging meeting, Minister Rutley let me know that Rye Bay will not be included in consultation for a Marine Conservation Zone. This is good news for the local fishermen in Rye, who have long opposed a Marine Conservation Zone being set up on their coastline as it would prevent them catching fish and would harm their trade.
The Minister also informed me that the area from Hastings to Beachy Head would undergo consultation for a Marine Conservation Zone in an effort to preserve our area’s marine life. This has been welcomed by Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society on the condition that they are adequately consulted and their methods of fishing will not have to change. Our town’s fishing fleets have always sought to catch fish sustainably, and I need to ensure this is raised to Government over the course of the consultation. This proposal needs some work before it can be accepted locally.
Making the most of our position on the coast is what has established our iconic fishing industry and we must ensure this industry thrives for our towns’ character and local economies. As your MP, that is exactly what I will do.