Hastings Observer Column - 29 March

The identity of both Hastings and Rye are tied up in our fishing history. Both towns have historic fishing fleets, with Hastings being the largest beach launched fleet in Europe and both being Cinque Ports. Both towns have fabulous, local fresh fish available every day and both have some of the best fish restaurants in the country.

MPs rightly talk about wanting to ensure we have the skills for future jobs. But I also want to ensure that the long-standing fishing community continues and thrives.

I recently met with Jeremy Percy of the New Under Tens Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA) who provide a voice for inshore fishermen, such as our own. They make up 80% of the UK fleet. This 80% of the fleet who often fish sustainably in small boats (particularly in Hastings which has a marine stewardship accreditation) only have access to 2% of the national quota. I am pleased that NUTFA lobby Government on this matter and following my meeting, I wrote to the Secretary of State for DEFRA, asking him to meet with Jeremy and other members of NUTFA to hear their concerns.

Michael Gove has a strong record of listening to our local fishermen; he visited the Hastings fleet last year, ensured Rye fishermen would not suffer from the proposed Rye Bay Marine Conservation Zone, provided funding to cover most of the cost of a new icemaker for the fleet, and has been working to get a fairer share of quota for our fishing communities. I am confident that he will continue to listen to our towns’ needs and we can make the most of the opportunity that Brexit provides for our local fishermen.

Over the coming days in Parliament, I hope that my colleagues and other members will back the Prime Minister’s deal and with it, an opportunity to improve life for our fishing communities.

Amber Rudd and Michael Gove in Hastings