WEST Cornwall MP Andrew George has welcomed an assurance from Fisheries Minister George Eustice that the mackerel quota for handlining fishermen will not be reduced this year.
Mr George has campaigned to keep the quota protected every year since Scottish fishermen "threatened to squeeze the Cornish industry out of existence" 16 years ago.
Now Mr Eustice, who is the MP for Camborne, has confirmed the 2014 quota will remain at its historic level of 1,750 tonnes – approximately one hundredth of the quota large pelagic Scottish vessels catch each year.
Mr George said: "It is essential that we keep this industry alive. This is natural justice. We shouldn't let those who do the right thing for the marine environment be bullied by the big boys who can siphon mackerel shoals with massive and powerful ocean- going ships.
"I have consistently pressed successive Defra ministers to ensure that they defend the historic arrangements when negotiating the allocation for Cornish and South West mackerel handliners.
"The Government has again faced increased pressure this year from the Scottish Government to reduce the handliner allocation and to place the surplus into the UK pot. This would result in most of it being redistributed to Scottish fishermen. Mackerel handling is one of the most low-impact fishing methods there is."
A Scottish purse seiner can take as much mackerel in a week as the whole Cornish mackerel handline fleet would take in a year but the market value of handline caught fish is much higher.
In a letter to Mr George, Mr Eustice said: "… recognising the important contribution that the inshore fleet makes to coastal communities … Defra continues to defend the historic arrangements".