By Kris Jepson

The North East fishing communities are in "crisis", according to a report published by the charity, Seafarers UK.

The charity has called on government to change the current national fishing quotas, which say 90 per cent of the nation's fishing fleet - mainly the smaller boats - can only have access to 4 per cent of the annual catch.

They have also called on consumers to buy more locally produced fish instead of imported products.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

Blyth fisherman, Bill Miller, has fished in the North Sea for decades. As he prepared his lobster pots for Friday's catch, he told ITV News that the decline in the fishing industry is partly due to the influx of large prawn trawlers from outside the region.

It should have been restricted. There was far too many boats catching far too much stuff. For prawn fishing, they use a small measure net, well when you use a small measure net you catch more fish and that happened for years and years and years and so the fish declined. Went less and less and less and so people dropped out of the job. People dropped out, because financially they couldn’t sustain it.

Bill Miller, Fisherman
Fish Credit: ITV News

North Shields fishmonger, Anthony Asiamah of Seaview Fisheries, said his custom has increased over the last few months, but he is reliant on importing fish and predominantly sources his stock from Scotland.

He told ITV News the quality of the fish caught in the North East does not match that caught in Scotland and the supply of fish in the local fish quay is not enough to meet demand.

I would love nothing better to sell everything local, as much as we can, but it’s just not there. You know, we probably sell a couple of hundred different products in the shop. I would say 75 per cent of them come from away.

Anthony Asiamah, Fishmonger
Fish Credit: ITV News

According to the Seafarers UK Fishing for a Future report, communities in Amble and North Shields are suffering far higher levels of deprivation than the national average as a result of the challenges faced by the sector.

The report stated that:

  • Number of UK fishing vessels has fallen by 29 per cent since 1996

  • Catches are 60 per cent lower than they were in 1973

  • 75 per cent of British caught fish is exported

  • 80 per cent of the fish eaten in the UK is imported

If you consider that fish is a public resource, which is what it is, then surely allocation of that quota should be based not on the current quasi historic rights and whoever has the deepest pockets, but more on social, economic and environmental criteria and this would benefit small boats ands it would, I think, enhance the sustainability of those stocks over time.

Jeremy Percy, Representative of small fishing fleets
Fishing decline Credit: ITV News

The report also suggested, despite many fishing communities supporting Brexit because of the quotas on their catches imposed by the EU, leaving the EU would "not automatically" see a return to access of the pre-EU fishing grounds and catch levels.

It warned that Britain's fishing industry will need "continued access" to European markets if it is to thrive after Brexit, which will mean offering the EU major concessions in allowing foreign vessels to fish in UK waters.

The report said Brexit would also mean an end to access to the European Maritime Fisheries Fund, which provides grants to support improvements to ports, vessels and individual businesses.

We want a sustainable, profitable and fair fishing industry for all of the UK. The Common Fisheries Policy has damaged the UK’s fishing industry and fish stocks which is why the Fisheries Bill sets out our vision and powers for taking back control of our waters, regenerating coastal communities and ensuring our precious marine environment is protected and thrives.

Defra Statement