Call for ban on all fishing was offensive to industry

From Don Thompson, president, Jersey Fishermen’s Association.

La Collette Marina, fishing boats                                                              Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30459526)
La Collette Marina, fishing boats Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30459526)

I VERY much enjoyed reading Bob Tompkins’s interesting nature article (JEP 11 March). Bob is obviously a man with a depth of knowledge and a passion for the marine environment. He is also someone who has clearly enjoyed some recreational, as well as commercial, fishing in the past.

I was deeply disappointed and quite offended, however, that he should use his otherwise excellent column to launch an attack on the fishersmanifesto.je website and a personal attack on me at the same time. Bob discredits the fishers manifesto and practically calls for a ban on all fishing to protect the marine environment. Something which I and my colleagues find offensive and certainly unwarranted.

Good management of fisheries and the marine environment certainly does not begin with banning hard-working fishermen from doing their job and it is clear from the support shown to our sector, throughout the Covid crisis, that our public would agree. They respect and appreciate our fishermen. The high numbers of members of the public, business community and even conservationists who have signed the manifesto is testimony to that support.

I would like to invite Mr Tompkins to come down and meet me and some of my colleagues at the JFA, where he will learn that we are actively engaged in some really excellent and ground-breaking research work with the team at the Environment Department/Fisheries section. Bob will find that some of the hard-and-fast myths held by many, surrounding métiers like gill netting and scallop fishing, do not stand up to scrutiny. Through a host of measures, including seasonal closures to protect spawning fish, maximum net length, increasing mesh sizes to 100mm minimum, limited soak times and restricted permit numbers, our professionals have achieved a highly selective fishery with practically zero discards of below-minimum-size fish or unwanted catch.

Similarly, through a careful process of identifying sensitive seabed habitat, and areas requiring protection, we have come a very long way in caring for the environment while still enabling our scallop sector to continue to provide healthy and sustainable seafood.

I recognised the seabed photo in Bob’s column as one taken some time ago at the Ecréhous reef. That is an area where, in 2016, the JFA spearheaded a project to protect the area around the reef from mobile gear – a battle that took three years of determined effort to have the same measures applied to French trawlers.

Finally, the fishers manifesto website, with its headline: ‘We are the Guardians of our waters, our ocean knowledge runs deep’, is not a prank. It is a sincere and genuine attempt to engage with our public, help them to understand some deeper conversations behind the core principles which we believe will deliver sustainable fisheries and to show us their support.

We are not afraid to receive and to understand intelligent counter argument or comments from the public. To that end, Mr Tompkins and the public will find a link on the website to a page where you are able to give us your feedback, positive or otherwise. You are free to ask for a response.

Fish Quay Office, Rue Gossette, La Collette, St Helier.

For more Letter's to the Editor, comment and opinion pieces, see today's Jersey Evening Post.

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