Political parties in Waveney have their say on fishing ahead of next general election

UKIP fishing spokesman Ray Finch talking about the importance of the fishing industry in Lowestoft.

UKIP fishing spokesman Ray Finch talking about the importance of the fishing industry in Lowestoft. - Credit: Nick Butcher

As the fight for one of the key election battlegrounds hots up ahead of May's general election, coastal politicians are fishing for votes - in every sense of the word.

Lowestoft fishing boats in the harbour.

Lowestoft fishing boats in the harbour. - Credit: Picture: Nick Butcher

As UKIP fisheries spokesman Ray Finch visited Lowestoft to attend one of the few early morning fish sales left in the country, each of the parties is having their say about what the future of once mighty industry should be.

Some, like Mr Finch, believe Lowestoft fishermen should be given free reign over their fishing in UK waters.

However others, like Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, Bob Blizzard, believe the controversial European Union common fisheries policy (CFP) - which sets quotas for how much of each type of fish member states are allowed to catch - has been important in stopping bigger, more aggressive firms taking the lion share from smaller traders.

However, he would like to smaller vessels in Lowestoft exempted from the cap.

Turning back the clock Malcolm White Lowestoft Fishing Vessels Rememberedcredit Malcolm White Colle

Turning back the clock Malcolm White Lowestoft Fishing Vessels Rememberedcredit Malcolm White Collection - Credit: Archant

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All agree, however, that fishing is a key part of Lowestoft's heritage - and that despite its decline over the years, it is still a key part of the town's future.

'It's had an important role in the past and there's a supply chain of fish processing that's still very much there and there is an opportunity to build on that,' said current Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who is seeking re-election for the seat for the ConservativePolitical s in May.

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'We won't return to the days of what it used to be but it has the opportunity to play an important role in the future of Lowestoft.'

Mr Aldous spoke at the annual fisheries debate in Parliament recently to encourage the government to carry out a 'root and branch' reform of the allocation of quota.

He urged the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition to 'reclaim UK territorial waters in the six to 12 nautical mile area', so that quota is reallocated to inshore fleet.

However that is not enough for Mr Finch, who believes the UK should leave the CFP entirely and have total control of everything that comes into the country's waters.

'We say that fisheries are our patrimony,' he said ahead of a breakfast meeting at the Hotel Victoria in Kirkley, Lowestoft hosted by June and Odin Mummery, directors of BFP Eastern, which operates the town's fish market.

'It's our natural resource. It's what helped build our country. We should leave the CFP and, that way, we can keep Lowestoft fisheries open.'

However Mr Blizzard said: 'Fish don't know where our national waters are - they move around.

'There are boats in Europe that are big and aggressive and need controlling. It is better to have a seat at the table to try to control them, rather than opting out.'

Graham Elliott, who is standing for the Green Party in Waveney in May, said: 'The CFP should be reformed so that it becomes an instrument that ensures the integrity and sound functioning of marine ecosystems rather than a blunt tool for regulating fishing catches.

'It should seek to return all populations of commercially exploited marine species to within biologically safe limits.'

What do you think about the state of the political parties in Waveney ahead of this year's general election? Write, giving your full contact details, to andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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