House of Lords peer calls for Holy Island fishing ban proposal to be dropped

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More pressure has been put on the government to drop a proposal that would effectively ban fishing in the waters around Holy Island.

Lord Curry of Kirkhale, who sits in the House of Lords, has written to environment secretary Thérèse Coffey to express concerns about Defra plans to designate it a Highly Protected Marine Area (HPMA).

There has been strong local opposition to the proposal, backed by Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan and county councillors Colin Hardy and Guy Renner-Thompson.

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Northumberland fishermen left in limbo over proposed fishing ban off Holy Island
Fishing could be banned in the waters around Holy Island.Fishing could be banned in the waters around Holy Island.
Fishing could be banned in the waters around Holy Island.

Lord Curry, in a letter to the secretary of state, writes: “A HMPA ban on fishing would, as Holy Island’s fishermen and residents have expressed, end a thousands-of-years-old industry which still stands at the heart of their community today.”

He points out that ‘the Lindisfarne fishermen are small-scale, low impact and sustainable fishers’ and that current conservation methods have allowed a thriving seal population.

He also highlights studies, one by by the University of Plymouth, which concluded “commercial pot fisheries are likely to be compatible with marine conservation when managed correctly at low, sustainable levels” and another, specific to the Northumberland coast, which found negligible impacts of pottings.

"Balanced against the potentially inconsequential ecological benefit, the social and economic effect on the community of Lindisfarne is disproportionately large,” writes Lord Curry.

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He explains how fishing is closely interlinked with tourism, with many fishing family members providing essential on-island work in the hospitality sector.

Many locals have shared their concerns that if the island’s fishes were forced out of work, they would have to relocate from the island entirely as the twice-daily tides make it possible to access the mainland for only 14 hours a day; this makes other employment a challenge,” he adds.

"The fishers, who operate only six boats from the island, would be unable to simply move to nearby fishing grounds beyond the proposed HPMA, which are already fully utilised by other boats harboured at Seahouses and Berwick.

“In summary, to halt this traditional, small-scale activity in the name of conservation would unduly devastate the small island community of Lindisfarne.

“It is my firm belief that this is an inappropriate location for a HMPA, and I urge you to reconsider such a proposal.”