Carmichael leads urgent debate on fishing worker visas “betrayal”

20 Apr 2023

Mr Carmichael is expected to say:

“For years the fishing industry has struggled to source the labour that it needs to function properly as has looked beyond these shores to meet its needs. Seafarers from The Philippines and Ghana have been particularly well-suited for the needs of our fishing fleets.

“The fishing industry have worked hard over the years to construct a scheme that would meet their needs and the details of that – written by the Fishermen’s Welfare Alliance – has been under consideration by the Home Office. It is for all intents and purposes identical to schemes made available for workers in aquaculture and the offshore industry.

“My first ask of the minister is if he will agree to meet me with a delegation of fishermen’s organisations and members from all parties to discuss the detail of this.

“We also need answers from the Home Secretary on these questions: Why is the fishing industry not allowed the same opportunities as are given to those in aquaculture and offshore renewables? Why was a grace period not allowed for fishermen to make alternative arrangements?

“The people who will be most affected are those fishing in inshore waters using both fixed and mobile gear. One Shetland fisherman told me that he currently works inside the 12 mile limit because he has quota only for haddock.  If he has to fish outside the 12-mile limit then he will also catch cod, ling and saithe for which he has no quota and which he is not allowed to discard because of the discard ban. What would the minister have him do? 

“This is someone who bought a boat and quota for £1.4million, still owes about £680,000 and who now faces ruin if he cannot go to sea.

“Another skipper who owns two Orkney crab boats asked me what should he do about the creels he currently has in the water?  He does not have the crew to shift them legally now – either to bring them onshore or to move them beyond the 12-mile limit.

“These are men who have done everything that every minister in every government would have had them do. They have worked hard, saved, borrowed, invested to grow a business to provide for them and their families and which they can then, in turn, hand on to the next generation to maintain the communities that they call to home and to provide us all with food on our plates.

“This decision is economically illiterate, politically inept and morally indefensible.  Not since Ted Heath declared our fishermen to be expendable have we seen a betrayal of this sort.

“If it is allowed to stand then the Conservatives need not go looking for votes in fishing communities again for another generation, let alone at the next election.”

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