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April 30, 2024

“We were happy to rock the boat”: The closing of NUTFA

Jerry Percy was the Director of the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA) for many years but this month announced its closure. Jerry represented small-scale fishers with vessels under 10 metres, giving a voice to Britain’s small boat community. We ask why he decided to close the association and how he feels UK fisheries policy needs to change. 

  1. What is NUTFA and why have you decided to close it?

Despite comprising 79% of the UK fleet, small boats only have access to around 3% of the fishing quota. NUTFA was formed to address this disparity and provide support for the survival and development of those small fishing vessels.

Having been a commercial fisherman myself, I’ve now been a long-standing representative of fishermen for many, many years. I’ve run organisations like NUTFA and served as the founding CEO for the Low Impact Fishers of Europe. But I’m not getting any younger and despite our best efforts, funding struggles persisted. We were very happy to rock the boat, politically and practically, and perhaps that doesn’t make you popular.

Post-Brexit, industry dynamics shifted. Though the Fisheries Act 2020 promised change, the government aren’t doing what they said they would. The Act says they must include social, economic and environmental criteria for allocating quota. And they’re not doing it! Instead they’ve vacillated and procrastinated. They are not following the very laws that they wrote. So here we are.

  1. How has fisheries policy dealt with the under 10s fleet so far?

Badly. Very badly. Four out of every five boats in the UK are small-scale. I don’t understand why successive administrations haven’t provided more practical and policy support to this sustainable group of small-scale fishermen, with all the heritage and traditional knowledge that comes with them.

I admit, they’re an independent, opinionated, disparate and difficult-to-manage group. A world apart from the collar and ties representing the large-scale vessels, with their huge resources to influence and lobby to boot. But the tragedy is that the small-scale inshore vessels being left out in the cold all bring so much to this country, to coastal communities, and to the environment. We are stewards of the sea. We’re there with our own eyes keeping watch.

  1. What do UK fisheries, and the under 10s fleet, need now?

It’s the recognition. It’s the seat at the table. It’s meaningful support. Unless government, whatever shade they are, really provides support to these small-scale communities all the way around the coast, while the medicine of policy to rebuild our fish populations does its job, then we are facing a bleak situation. It’s a tragedy. With the threat of depleted fish stocks and the effects of climate change and pollution, we are really up against it as small-scale sector.

  1. What will this country be losing by failing to safeguard sustainable, small-scale fisheries?

Well, massive amounts really: heritage, tradition, cultural identity. These people, these fishermen, are really what made the country what it once was. They were resilient in the face of immense challenges, courageous in harsh conditions that others would shy away from, dedicated and focused. These qualities are the backbone of Britain. We lose this community at our peril – economically, socially and environmentally.

  1. What gives you hope for the future?

It’s organisations like Oceana. At the end of the day, politicians respond to public pressure, and you lot have the power to mobilise that pressure. You can highlight to people how we’re impacting the planet, including fisheries, and what’s at stake. If you can get people to care, then get them to vote and influence the politicians, then there’s hope.