Saving Our Fishermen


I have long campaigned for the EU Fisheries Policy to be reformed. The impractical quota system has meant that Thanet’s fishermen could only catch certain amounts of each fish species. Because the UK has mixed fisheries, this policy has resulted in over 50% of fishermen’s catch having to be thrown back into the sea – dead. This has severely affected the livelihood of local fishermen and damaged the Thanet economy. With food becoming increasingly valuable and livelihoods at stake, the discards madness must stop.


Laura Sandys MP with Thanet Fisherman and the Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon

Fisheries Minister Praises Local Fishermen and MP

Community quota pilot extended to the end of this year

23rd July 2013

The Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon MP, praised the work of Laura Sandys and Ramsgate fishermen following his announcement extending the community quota pilot scheme allowing inshore fishermen part of the under 10-metre fleet’s quota.


The Minister said: “I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys)... She has been a tireless supporter of the fishing industry in her constituency.”


Laura said: “I have been campaigning extremely hard to bring about much needed reform for our local fisherman, and I am hugely grateful to the Minister for his support in the extension of this pilot. This is a fantastic opportunity to show that greater flexibility and certainty is needed, and I am particularly pleased that our fishermen are leading the way on this.”


Sandys Strongly Welcomes EU Fishing Deal

18th June 2013

Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet, welcomed yesterday’s announcement by the Minister for Fisheries on the reform of EU fishing policy. The proposed changes to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will mean a better deal for smaller fisherman, decentralising the decision-making process and bringing an end to discards.

Laura said: “I have been campaigning for a better deal for our Thanet fisherman for a long time. I have made strong representations to the Fisheries Minister and today had the opportunity to meet with him to discuss this. I also had the opportunity to ask the Minister in Parliament yesterday about what these reforms will mean for the localisation of management in Thanet and have been reassured that our fisherman will be closer to the decision-making process and will play a crucial role in this.”

“Between the campaigning of our fisherman, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign and the dedication of the Minister, discards will now be a thing of the past.”

The reforms will:

·         Put a ban on discarding fish that is edible and should not be wasted;

·         Create a legally binding commitment to fishing at sustainable levels;

·         Allow decision-making to take place by Member States so they are able to decide measures that are most appropriate for them;


Please find Laura’s questions to the Minister below:

Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con): The Minister is very self-effacing and really deserves the commendation of the fishermen of Ramsgate for his determination and persistence throughout some very difficult negotiations. My fishermen were very interested in what the localisation of the management of fisheries will mean in the long term. That means using the expertise of my fishermen to help manage their fisheries sustainably.

Richard Benyon: My hon. Friend will be coming to see me with a leading member of her local fishing community to discuss how we can introduce a better system of management for fishermen in her area. They will be closer to the decision-making process when they are part of that regionalised system of management, but I hope that they will also benefit from a rising biomass that will make them more prosperous. We are doing a great deal of work with stocks that they target in terms of survivability, and we are trying to ensure that the discards ban works not just for them, but for the marine environment.


Sandys Calls for Debate on Fishing Quota

14th May 2013

Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet, asked the Leader of the House The Rt. Hon Andrew Lansley MP for a debate on the unfair allocation of fishing quota which is very detrimental to small fisherman in Thanet.

Laura’s action follows the Judicial Review case that took place in the High Court last week which was brought by the UK Association of Fish Producer Organisations (UKAFPO) who represent many of the larger vessels in the UK. They are looking to appeal against a Government decision to reallocate unused fishing quota held by producer organisations to smaller fisherman. The judgement is due in 3-6 weeks and Laura will be keeping a close on any developments.

Laura said: “I have been campaigning for a better deal for our local fisherman for a long time. I believe that the Government and the Fisheries Minister are taking action and are addressing the inequalities our fishermen are facing, both here and in Brussels. At the heart of the problem lies the belief by larger fishing producer organisations that they “own” fishing quota. I believe that the nation owns our national asset of quota and that the Minister is right in his actions to reallocate fishing quota to smaller fisherman.”

Please find Laura’s question and answer below:

Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con):

I am sure that the House agrees that we must protect our national assets, one of which is fishing quota. Currently, small fishermen are trying to wrestle back—on behalf of the Government in many ways and on behalf of citizens—the fishing quota that has been “appropriated” by other quarters and interests. May we have a debate on this issue as soon as possible?

Mr Lansley:

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising what is an important issue, not least in her own constituency. I will, of course, talk to my hon. Friends at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and ensure that they take note of what she says. There may be an opportunity for her to raise the issue and for them to respond at the forthcoming DEFRA Question Time.


EU Parliament Votes for Historic Fisheries Reform

6th February 2013

Laura Sandys MP today expressed her delight that the European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), saying, “This is fantastic news for our local fisherman in Thanet.  Today’s vote is a really positive result for them.  I have been campaigning on this issue for a very long time and I am now hopeful that this will mark the end of years of European mismanagement of our seas.

A majority of 365 MEPs in the European Parliament voted to:

o   Implement a timetable to stop fisherman having to discard fish.

o   Put together long-term plans to protect stocks from overfishing.

o   Allow fisheries management to shift from the supranational to the regional level.

“This great outcome is due to the tireless work of the UK’s Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon MP.  He has long campaigned, with the support of coastal MPs such as myself, to end the discards system and regionalise the CFP.  Today his work has been truly vindicated.”

“It also follows a letter that Amber Rudd, the MP for Hastings, and I had published in The Times yesterday that reaffirmed our support for our local fisherman [Please see it below].  I found recent reports that the National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations is dominated by foreign controlled fishing barons very concerning.  Amber, the Minister and I are all totally committed to overcoming this and ensuring that the voice of the small scale fisherman is heard at every level of Government.”



On the eve of a crucial vote by MEPs on the reform of Europe’s broken fishing laws, the Greenpeace investigation into one of the UKs top fishing advisory bodies – the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) – is yet another demonstration of the injustices facing the UKs more sustainable fishermen.  Small-scale fishermen makes up 77% of the number of vessels in the UK fleet.  It’s not just the lack of fishing quota, but their under-representation over many years in decision making which is putting our small-scale fishermen out of business. They are important to the UK’s economy and to local fishing communities such as Hastings and Ramsgate, where they are vital for local jobs and maintaining our cultural maritime heritage.


The government is making strides in negotiating a strong localised CFP reform. We must also ensure we reward those that fish in the most sustainable way and that fishing advisory bodies are transparent about who they represent.  A Wolf in Shrimp’s Clothing  found that the NFFO is dominated by foreign controlled fishing barons, and that small scale fishermen are being both misrepresented and actively harmed by the Federation.  That is a disgrace. 


Small-scale fishermen from our constituencies have, quite rightly, been telling us that having the NFFO represent their interests is like saying Tesco or Sainsbury’s will look out for the interests of the local greengrocer; there is a direct conflict of interest and this investigation confirms what we already knew. 


Successive governments have been deceived by the NFFO into believing that they are THE representative body for the  fishing industry in England and Wales and what has become abundantly clear is that the small-scale sector both need and deserve dedicated representation.  Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon has to be praised for breaking with the existing trend of only listening to the NFFO and he has made great efforts to diversify the industry representatives that he listens to.  But we must go further.  If we want our small-scale fishermen to have a fighting chance of survival then they have to have a seat at the table; they need to be properly consulted on CFP and domestic reform and whilst we have just one fishing industry, there are sectors within it that desperately need their individual requirements to be heard.


Sandys Speaks Out For Thanet's Fisherman

17th December 2012

On Thursday 7th December Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet, raised the problems that the EU’s fisheries policy is causing Thanet’s fisherman in a Parliamentary debate.  In the debate Laura outlined the following issues:

·         Quota Reform: The quota system must be reformed and recognised as a national asset and not a privately owned commodity that can be traded by those who don’t even fish.

·         The Benefits of the Ramsgate Pilot Project: This pilot only in Ramsgate is enabling fisherman to highlight the benefits of a no-discard policy through effort control and technical measures – a policy area that has been developed by our local Ramsgate fishermen.

·         Under-10s Producer Organisations: DEFRA must provide business management assistance for to build the business case around an Under 10 PO.  It would allow the under-10s fleets to operate better as a collective of small businesses.

After the debate Laura said, “We must get fisheries policy right as it is so crucial to the local fisherman in Thanet that rely on the sea for their livelihoods.  In particular, I have been campaigning for the quota system to be greatly reformed.  It is a crazy situation that fisherman that want to go out and earn a living are restricted because fishing quotas are being held by ‘slipper skippers’ who are treating it like a tradeable commodity”.

“I am confident that yesterday’s debate highlighted the strength of feeling about this important issue to the Government.  I will continue to campaign on this until we see the Common Fisheries Policy reformed and a fairer deal brokered for our local fisherman”.


Please see Laura’s speech below:

Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con): This has been a fascinating debate, and I have little to add, particularly after my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) presented such a comprehensive set of issues that the under-10-metre fleet in particular must address. I would like to make two points. They have been made before, but I want to assert them on behalf of Ramsgate fishermen, and on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), who unfortunately is not well today. We have similar and common issues.

First, Hastings and Ramsgate have put a proposal to the Minister for a non-sector sustainable fisheries pilot to include technical measures, effort control and a no-discard policy, reflecting the need for regional management and smaller fishermen’s concerns about the centralised, inaccurate and sometimes prescriptive quota system.


The second issue that we are concerned about, particularly in Ramsgate—it is welcome in many ways—is the offer by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to set up an under-10s producer organisation. That is an important initiative to take forward. However, DEFRA must realise that the under-10s do not have the same organisational capacity, and it will be challenging for them to set up a sophisticated business organisation.


Without reducing the enthusiasm that under-10 fishermen have for the concept, DEFRA should put in place some business management support to put together the concept, and some support for the individuals who take on the leadership role, not as a professional job, unlike producer organisations today, but as part of running a small business. They take time out of that work, and I would like some support to ensure that the Minister’s vision and our enthusiasm for it becomes reality.


My last point, which hon. Members today have made, is that it is crucial that we bottom this out. Meetings that I have attended in Brussels reveal that Britain need not be so diffident about owning quota. The quota is owned by this country, not the people who have assumed rights and purchase.


Sheryll Murray: Does my hon. Friend agree that that quota was provided to British fishermen free of charge, and that only the buying and selling of quota and the introduction of fixed quota allocation units has led us to the disastrous situation for the under-10-metre fleet?


Laura Sandys: I thank my hon. Friend who, as we all know, has huge experience in this area. I totally agree with her. We must rectify the situation. I have asked questions about this at meetings in Brussels, and was told that other countries do not have the same regime, and that the state owns the quota and distributes it to those who fish and those who are in the trade. I urge the Minister to use the precedent internationally and throughout Europe to ensure that he is successful in regaining control over that quota, and that it is used by those whose livelihoods depend on fishing.


Sandys Takes Thanet Fishermen’s Concerns to Brussels

5th May 2012

Laura Sandys MP visited the European Commission in Brussels on Friday to discuss the forthcoming reform of the Common Fisheries Policy at a meeting with senior official Andras Inotai.

After the visit Laura said: “I had a very productive meeting. It is imperative that we get the message across about our under 10m fleet that represents all our local fishermen.

“There is no common description of small fishermen across the EU – that makes for very difficult policy development if “small” means different things in every country.  There is also little coordination of the sorts of policies that small boats would benefit from.  I am keen to talk to fellow colleagues in the UK and see if we can arrange a pan-European small boat meeting and get support from the European Parliament to achieve this.

“However there are some real barriers here in the UK to getting the settlement that we need.  “Slipper skippers” – people who own quota but who never go fishing – is a UK phenomena and is not common across Europe. We need to find out what real rights they have to own a concession that is a national resource.

“The EU is committed to end discards and while there is strong political support in the UK there appears to be continuing technical barriers in the UK to making this a reality.  We must get to the bottom of these difficulties as discards really should be put behind us after the reform process is complete.

“There seemed to be some strong interest in using technical measures to manage fishing and the Commission is hoping for a fund to support fishermen to invest in the best gearing for their particular circumstance.

“However it is not going to be easy to get pan-European agreement on the reforms, there are many very different business models that need to be accommodated and conflicting interests.

“This has increased my commitment to make sure that the UK government fights for greater support for the under 10 fleet and ensures that there are no bureaucratic barriers to achieving no discards and greater effort control.”


Common Fisheries Policy Recommendations Published Today

13th July 2011

Today at noon the European Commission will publish its proposals for the new Common Fisheries Policy. 
Laura said:  “This is an important milestone in the campaign to end fish discards and introduce fairness for our under 10 meter fishing fleet based in the South East.  The proposals are generated by the EU and will require the UK, our local fishermen and us as MPs to make strong representation to ensure we get the reforms that we need.”
“With my colleagues, I have been working with Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight Campaign and the Minister for Fisheries, Richard Benyon MP, for many months to try and reform this outdated and impractical system. We welcomed the Minister to Ramsgate last week and I know that he will work to defend our local fisheries. I am extremely hopeful that today we will take the first significant steps towards helping our local Thanet fishermen and the country as a whole. These reforms are long overdue and a real opportunity for us to establish sustainable fisheries in Kent.”



Campaign to End Fish Discards Starts to Pay Off!
1st March 2011
Today, the EU Fisheries Commissioner will outline her plans to end fish discards in a meeting with member states. 
In response to the plans, Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet and Sandwich said “I am so pleased that the commission has started to see sense and that through the campaigning we have done locally, the Minister has done internationally and the media coverage that TV chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has achieved, that we will see the end to discards by 2013.  Our Thanet fishermen have been at the forefront of the campaigning and I have been proud to stand alongside them.  We believe that discarding fish into the sea is immoral and look forward to all the catch being landed into the future."
“It is an absolute scandal that over 50% of all fish caught are thrown back into the sea – dead. Having campaigned for the reform of our fisheries policy for many years, it is refreshing to see the Coalition government leading the way on reforming our fisheries policy. These new proposals better reflect the UK’s mixed fisheries.”
The Commissioner has suggested several options in managing fish stocks without the need for discards.  These include limiting the amount of time boats can spend at sea; regulating the places where they can fish; counting all fish landed against quotas; closing mixed fisheries where the maximum quota of one species has been caught; and using CCTV, observers, electronic logbooks and monitoring ports.

Laura Sandys MP joins Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Big Fish Fight
11th January 2011
Laura Sandys MP has joined Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Big Fish Fight campaign to support an end to the wasteful practice of discards. Laura accompanied Thanet’s fishermen during the filming of the Channel 4 documentary to call for changes to the present fishing regulations.
Laura said: “At a time when the world’s resources are under increasing pressure, it is madness that half of all fish caught have to be thrown back into the sea. Heavy handed regulation from Europe needs to be addressed. We must ensure our fishing stocks are properly managed whilst also enabling our local fishermen to earn a living.”
“I have signed up to support Hugh’s exciting campaign and encourage others to do so. Although the real prize of Common Fisheries Policy reform will take time, I am here to continually fight our fishermen’s corner in Parliament.”
“The broadcast of this programme coincides with an important consultation that the pro-fishing Minister Richard Benyon has launched on discards. I am very pleased that the Minister takes the issues faced by our Thanet fishermen so seriously.”
The programme will be broadcast on Channel 4 tonight, Wednesday 11th January, and Thursday 12th January as part of Channel 4’s Big Fish Fight.

Minister has rescued our Thanet Fisherman: Our fisheries are now open again
31st August 2010

"I am thrilled that our Thanet fisherman are now able to go back to sea following lenghty negotiations by Richard Benyon MP, Minister for Fisheries, and his team with other EU countires to get extra quota.  It has been a difficult few months for out local fisherman, but today they have the green light back on their boats", said Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet.
“Ever since the Minister, when in opposition, came down to Ramsgate at my invitation, he has seen the importance of our fishermen to our community, and he has been working to ensure that we get the best deal for them.  Today shows how true his promise was to them when he said that he was committed to a future for our local fishing industry.”

This follows a long and sustained campaign by the local fishermen, supported by  local MPs Laura Sandys, Roger Gale and Julian Brazier.   “it has illustrated to us all how dysfunctional the current system is and how reform is so badly needed.  The Minister is committed to ensuring that reform will truly serve our under 10s into the future,” said Laura.
"I know how difficult it has been for many of fishermen – I know how close some of them have come to bankruptcy, I also know that I will always be there to fight their cause. What is particularly welcome to the fishermen is that they know that the Minister is also there for them. Quite a change from the last Government!“
Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said "The reopening of the North Sea sole fishery is great news and is something that I have been working closely with the MMO on securing. Our negotiations with the Netherlands and Germany mean that we now have additional quota of North Sea sole for the under ten metre fleet.”

Sandys Secures Additional Quota for Thanet Fishermen 
25th August 2010
After a long and sustained campaign by the local fishermen, supported by local MPs Laura Sandys, Roger Gale and Julian Brazier and Minister for Fisheries, Richard Benyon MP the quota has been increased, allowing our fisherman to go back to work.
 “I am thrilled that our Thanet Fishermen are now able to go back to sea following lengthy negotiations by Richard Benyon MP, Minister for Fisheries and his team with other EU countries to get extra quota. It has been a difficult few months for our local fishermen but they have the green light to get back on their boats”, said Laura Sandys MP for South Thanet.
“It has illustrated to us all how dysfunctional the current system is and how reform is so badly needed. The Minister is committed to ensuring that reform will truly serve our under 10s into the future,” said Laura. “I know how difficult it has been for many of fishermen – I know how close some of them have come to bankruptcy, I also know that I will always be there to fight their cause”.

Related Speeches and Questions:


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