A group of North Sea fishermen have urged king Willem-Alexander to step in and help the Dutch fishing industry which they say is being threatened by government and EU policy.
In total, 400 skippers and fishing industry companies signed the letter as well as 45 Belgian and German trawler operators who fish in Dutch waters.
The fishermen are particularly concerned about new emissions targets for trawlers operating in Natura 2000 areas. The new motors which trawlers need to meet the targets by October 1 cost some €100,000 and only half of that can be covered by government subsidies, they say.
In addition, they argue many trawlers are not suitable for conversion and that some boat owners cannot afford the changes. ‘The smaller the boat, the smaller the amount of available space and the more unlikely it is to be able to meet the government’s demands,’ the letter states.
The industry is also concerned about further restrictions on what can be fished where, particularly restrictions on fishing for bottom feeders such as shrimp, plaice and sole.
Currently just 5% of the North Sea is restricted for bottom fishing, in which a net is dragged across the sea bed, but this is to be expanded to 15%. The European Commission recently published plans to ban all bottom fishing by 2030.
‘Government policy will result in a few dozen more of the 160 remaining shrimp boats going bust without any compensation,’ the letter states.
Wageningen University fisheries economist Kees Taal told NOS that the industry is in a difficult position. ‘Shrimp live in shallow waters close to the coast and in the Netherlands that is entirely classified as Natura 2000. You can’t fish further out because there are no shrimp there.’
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