Research programme scrapped in Lowestoft
A RESEARCH programme which has allowed a group of Lowestoft fishermen to land fish above their quotas has been scrapped.Ten boats from the port have been taking part in an environmentally responsible fishing programme, which was launched last year by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
A RESEARCH programme which has allowed a group of Lowestoft fishermen to land fish above their quotas has been scrapped.
Ten boats from the port have been taking part in an environmentally responsible fishing programme, which was launched last year by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The scheme, which involved 31 under-10m fishing boats from Lowestoft, Hartlepool and the Thames Estuary, has been providing data about fish stocks off the east coast since August last year.
Participants were allowed to land everything they caught above their quotas on allocated days to allow scientists to find out more about the numbers and types of fish living in the North Sea.
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However last week, the fishermen involved in the scheme were contacted by Defra to say that the project had been closed because of the large amounts of fish being landed.
Chris Wightman, who line-catches cod with his brother Steve from their boat Maximus, said: 'This is a really frustrating situation, because the programme was created to give a proper picture of stocks in the sea. Last year was an exceptional year for cod, and the catch rate in the Lowestoft area was particularly high.
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'However, this year has been different because of the warmer summer. It is those cycles, which take about five years to come around, that this study was supposed to show to the scientists.
'How are we supposed to show them how much fish there is to catch when they stop the project so suddenly?'
He added: 'The boats are now restricted to their normal quota of 500kg of cod per month. Since it costs about �300 a day to run a boat and the cod fetches about �2 per kilogram, that's hardly going to pay for Christmas. This has angered fishermen because the plug was pulled so suddenly.'
A Defra spokesman said: 'Defra has taken the decision to close the environmentally responsible fishing (ERF) programme after the latest analysis of catch data showed higher levels of catch than anticipated.
'The ERF findings will be a key element of the evidence base for the sustainable access to inshore fisheries (SAIF) project.'