East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton has today visited the premises of Monteum Ltd, the highly-respected fishing company based on Fishermans Wharf, Shoreham and owned by Jim Partridge.
It was an ideal opportunity to discuss the future of the UK fishing industry under the new environmental minister Andrea Leadsom and see how Jim’s pot making business had evolved since he had set up a working association with Lewes Prison.
Tim has been a great supporter of Andrea, having known her for more than 38 years.
“A lot of the uncertainty of exiting within the EU has started to clear and now under Teresa May we are seeing Government changes that will benefit all parties,” he said.
“I do feel the British fishing industry has been one of the biggest victims of the bureaucratic behaviour of the EU over recent years. The reduction of the number of boats which has seen fishermen’s livings destroyed. It’s a titanic issue for many people whether or not you are involved in fishing, having a coastal constituency like mine.
“Now we are going to get that control back we will be able to look after our own fishing waters with our own fishermen – this is the most important point.”
Referring to the new minister, Tim went on to say: “Andrea has now been given a very important role in charge of DEFRA. A key part of that is fishing and it will now be up to her to look at polices both post and pre EU.
“She will want to meet the representatives of the industry around the country. Her constituency is a rural one, so she knows about farming and this is a challenge she will relish, as fishing was such a high profile part of the referendum, which she so much stood up for during the Brexit debates.”
There are some other strong MPs now who have a close allegiance to the industry. Amber Rudd, the new home secretary, is from Hastings and has worked closely with the fishermen there. George Eustace, MP for Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall is the current fisheries minister. More coastal MPs are now starting to realise just how important this is to the UKs economy and as Tim said, this will encourage Andrea.
“Why I am here today is to see Jim – I refer to him as ‘Mr Fish’ as he has done so much for the industry,” said Tim.
“He supports the local fishermen and when we had the storms several years ago, he was there offering support. I have always valued his judgment and as we all know he is not shy coming forward – and we like people like that.
“His lobster pot business is so different. I went to Lewes Prison last Friday and we saw the pots being made by prisoners. Jim provides the parts and they assemble.
“Currently, they have made over 1,500 pots. To be truthful, it was not an easy task to set up. Bringing material in from the outside was a barrier we had to overcome - then the training.
“Their enthusiasm amazed me and this already has resulted in one inmate who on release joined a local fishing boat as a crew member.
“It is an education for some and if people have more innovative projects like this it will encourage them in the outside world.”
Both Tim and Jim were joined by John Malone, the industries manager at HMP Lewes who set up the project in 2014.
“What we decided to do at Lewes was very different. It was Jim who came up with the idea. Tim got involved and between the three of us the current project was set up.
“It is so nice to see Tim here today and his enthusiasm for the future of the fishing industry under the new Environmental team is a delight to hear.”
Since Tim got involved more with the local fishermen he began to realise just how much hardship they were suffering.
“It has a future and must survive; it is initially British. When you have a 7,700 mile coastline you are very much a maritime nation. Part of that must be having a sustainable and healthy fishing industry.
“A bit of Britain has died with part of the industry we have lost; due to the politicians in the EU. We now have got to make it a viable industry so we can attract young fisherman back to their boats.
“The control of our fishing stocks was completely out of our hands and resulted in rules and regulations that caused many fishermen to hang up their nets.
“This will now change and this decision will be taken by the Secretary of State for DEFRA who is elected and accountable to local people and fishermen. It is not going to be easy, and it is a tough business. People struggle to make a living but I think we can now give some certainty that it has a future and we can do something to support it.”
Jim Partridge concluded: “I feel more confident than I have for a long time that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
“I have made a point of employing young people in my staff of 15. At times it has not been easy and I have had to often dig deep in my pockets to survive.
“You will see on our quay a new fishing boat being built, it will be called ‘Royal Escape 2’. I hope to launch it in the spring.
“I should have retired by now but I wake up most mornings wanting to return to the industry the pleasures I have had from it. It will give me an opportunity to offer youngsters the pleasure that I got out of fishing when I started.
“It will be interesting to see what Andrea does to support us. As a fisherman I do hope it will also unite us more; as at times the EU has resulted in divided loyalties. A thank you and pat on the back is so important!”
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