Fishing organisation hits back at Greenpeace claims
Fishing industry leaders have accused a leading environmental group of "blatant propaganda" and "manipulating statistics" in a row which has erupted over who speaks for most fishermen.
In a new report, Wolf in Shrimps Clothing, Greenpeace say the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisation (NFFO) is a false friend of small-scale fishermen and dominated by foreign interests.
However, NFFO chairman Paul Trebilcock, who is also chief executive of the Cornish Fish Producers' Organisation, the national group's biggest member, rejected the claim as "laughable".
Greenpeace campaigner Ariana Densham said the organisation did not speak for small-scale fishermen – known as the under 10 metre fleet – and did not represent many fishing communities.
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"It's clear they're a false friend of the small-scale sector," she said.
"They are trying to maintain a broken system that funnels fishing quota and political influence to the most powerful among their members, and throws the leftovers to small-scale fishermen, who are the lifeblood of the Cornish fishing industry and its more sustainable part," she added.
Greenpeace says that despite NFFO claiming to be the representative body for fishermen, some 57% of the fishing capacity of its members is in the hands of foreign interests – namely Spanish, Dutch, and Icelandic – which control 20 of the 30 biggest vessels registered in the UK, not including Scotland.
However, the NFFO reject that outright, saying currently just 8% of member vessels are owned outside the UK.
Moreover, Mr Trebilcock said that membership of the CFPO was 100% British.
The NFFO says that its membership is mixed between small and large boat owners, with a third of member fishing vessels below 15 metres, and 40% below 10 metres.
Mr Trebilcock said that in Cornwall, where the CFPO is the biggest single contributor to the NFFO, 110 members are from over 10 metre boats and 95 from under 10 metre boats.
"Our membership is a reflection of the diverse nature of the fleet in Cornwall," he said.
"The CFPO is a reflection of the diverse nature of the fleet nationally and the NFFO.
"Greenpeace is guilty of blatant propaganda and they are manipulating the statistics to suit themselves.
"This is an organisation which as calling for a 55% cut of haddock quota in the area.
"This would have crucified the small fleet.
"Fishermen are not stupid and they can choose who will represent them.
"However, the strength of the NFFO is its diversity, with members from the smallest boats to the big boats, and the fact is that it fights for the whole of the UK fishing industry."