The death knell could be sounding on what is left of Fleetwood’s inshore fishing industry, warns one of the town’s last fishermen.
Fleetwood fisherman Will Bamber says plans to extend an already large windfarm in the Irish Sea could force boats out of their fishing grounds for an entire year - the whole of 2017.
There are just 10 small fishing boats left in Fleetwood, nine of them inshore vessels.
Mr Bamber, spokesman for the Fleetwood Commercial Fishermen’s Group, claims DONG Energy has offered the fishermen just £750 per boat to stay out of the waters for a whole year, as part of its construction plans for the Walney Extension off the coast of Cumbria.
DONG Energy argues only a small handful of up to 100 fishermen in the Irish Sea have a problem with the deal being offerd - and the company argues there are other areas in which the men can fish while the work is carried out.
But now a public meeting is to be staged by the fishermen’s group at the Mount Hotel, Fleetwood, on Tuesday August 23 at 12.30pm to 1.30pm to discuss the issue. A flotilla of trawlers is also planned as a protest, unless DONG can offer more agreeable terms.
Fifth-generation fisherman Will Bamber, 33, said: “Unless something better is offered, this could be the end of us.
“This extension to the farm means the company needs to contruct cables under the sea bed leading to the turbines. They have told us they want us to stay out of the whole area during 2017. The problem is that this extension covers key fishing grounds. There’s nowhere else for us to go.
“This is something we have been involved in talks with since February. We have kept quiet so far because we hoped we could sort things out with the energy company ourselves; we have tried to liase with them but unfortunately we have not got anywhere. Things have become very bad and at our last group meeting we decided it was time to go public.
“There are 10 fishing vessels left in Fleetwood - one offshore and nine inshore - and this will be it for us. This will finish us off.
“There’s only a few of here just trying to make a living, and what’s worse is that they’ve only offered us £750 per boat to stay out of the waters for a whole year. They have said we can have that money, but we can only spend it on fishing gear.
“It puts us out of business overnight.
“There’s guys here talking about selling up and they’re going to have to either find a new job, take early retirement or move out completely. It’s very upsetting for all of us.”
Fleetwood MP Cat Smith plans to be at the public meeting and said: “I will be making representations on behalf of the fishermen to try and ensure they get the right deal which will enable them to continue.”
A DONG Energy spokesman said: “In preparation for the offshore construction work on the Walney Extension wind farm off the coast of Cumbria, DONG Energy has held positive discussions with groups representing around 100 local fishermen. Where applicable, these talks cover appropriate disturbance payments for any loss of catch, or other cost, that can be demonstrated to result from the construction work.
“Unfortunately, we have so far not been able to come to a mutually acceptable arrangement with a small number of fishermen who have rejected the terms offered. The construction work will not affect their entire fishing area. It will simply require them to keep a safe distance from a narrow strip of sea while survey and construction work for the export cable of the wind farm takes place.
“We hope to reach an amicable evidenced based settlement with this group in the near future.”