'Leave us alone', pleads Northumberland fishing industry over proposed North Sea ban

Fishermen in the North East fear a proposed fishing ban could jeopardise one of the region's key industries.

The plan to introduce highly protected marine areas (HPMA) off the coast of Northumberland, around Lindisfarne and north east of the Farne Islands, is currently under consultation.

The areas are among five across the UK put forward for the pilot, which Defra says will protect 850 species of seabirds, fish and marine life.

However, some believe the decision will put businesses that contribute millions of pounds to the local economy under threat.

Fishing, dredging, construction and anchoring are set to be banned in the HPMA sites. Credit: ITV News

Jonathan Dawson, whose family has fished in the North Sea for generations, and his crew catch lobster seven days a week.

If the HPMA comes into effect, he believes his fishing options will be reduced by 30-40%, which could lead to conflict between fishermen who are forced to catch in the same areas.

He said: "It will be a big impact on the business, probably too much to sustain.

"Then you've got your knock-on effects: your merchants on the land, your engineers that service the boats, the hotels that sell local produce.

"They can't sell local produce if it's not caught locally.

"If something is working as well as it has done here for generations, leave it alone."

Crews off the coast of Northumberland are already limited to using 80 pots. Credit: ITV News

The area is managed by the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA) and already has strict rules in place for fishermen.

These include a ban on trawling and dredging, and a restriction on the number of pots crews can use.

Chair of the NIFCA, Les Weller, said: "It would be far better either further offshore or perhaps on the Durham coast where there’s virtually no protection and no designation.

"This area has got about five designations on it. It is one of the most protected parts of England and the damage will be long term and historical."

Before introducing a HPMA, the government has to take into consideration the economic impact on local areas.

A public consultation, which runs until 28 September 2022, will give people the opportunity to share their views and will help officials decide designated areas and final boundaries.

A Defra spokesperson said: "Highly protected marine areas will help a wide-range of valuable habitats and species to fully recover, boosting the resilience of our ocean.

"As demands on our oceans increase, these areas will help to safeguard the marine environment whilst ensuring we can continue to meet the sustainable needs of those who rely on our seas."

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