Local authorities work to rigid protocols and the Harbour Board routinely used to consider Harbour dues at its September meeting, so that they could be ratified by the next full Council, published and be in place for the new season. But this meant that, if the Board didn’t like what was proposed, it could not change anything because there wasn’t time to go through the whole process again.
However, in a radical innovation, April’s Harbour Board meeting was presented with proposals for 2020 Harbour dues. As it happens, these proposals included some major changes, like a move towards charging more directly by engine size (at last!).
Harbour dues cover lots of things and, in a section few people read, there is always the customary rates for commercial vessels unloading on the quay. But in Salcombe there are charges for everything except shellfish: unloading shellfish is free. Now here’s a conundrum: the only sea food brought into Salcombe is shellfish. Does Salcombe have (uniquely) a shellfish fleet because there are no charges for unloading shellfish; or are there no charges for unloading shellfish because Salcombe has a shellfish fleet?
Fishing people, like farmers, have been vociferously keen on leaving the EU probably mainly because a lot of foreign vessels fish in UK waters, and British fishing boats would like to have British waters for themselves – I remember hearing in the summer that only Icelanders can take fish from Icelandic waters. The history of how we got to this point in the UK is complicated but one element is the fact that a number of British boats have been sold abroad – together with their valuable quota, which is what made so much money for their owners. These boats then, of course, continue to fish in UK waters. In addition, neighbouring countries can reach the UK easily: France fishes about two-thirds of its catch from UK waters and the Danes have argued that their access to UK waters was granted in perpetuity by none other than the great King Canute.
So it is easy to see why British fleets would like British waters more to themselves. However, some fishing folk are now beginning to worry about what is going to happen when/if the UK leaves the EU. They may have more generous quotas and be able to catch more fish, but two-thirds of British-caught fish is sold to the EU and the fear is that this may be priced out of the market by EU tariffs – which, perhaps not surprisingly, almost exactly mirrors the situation facing some farmers.