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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 18:11 GMT
'If we can't fish, we can't live'
Cod in market
Cod stocks in the North Sea are under threat
As fishermen prepare to protest against proposals to dramatically reduce cod fishing in the North Sea, Dennis Clark - who comes from six generations of fishermen - tells why he is joining them.
"The European Commission wants to cut the days we can fish by 80%. If they have their way, that will mean I can only go to sea for 50 days next year.

"The simple fact is, if we don't catch fish, we don't take home any money," he said.

Dennis left school to join a trawler when he was 14. He is now 50.

It's not just a few men who will be put out of business - it's entire communities

In the winter he gets up every morning two hours before dawn to reach the fishing grounds in the North Sea.

"Fishing was all I wanted to do, it was all I knew really. My dad and grandfather were fishermen. I had my own little boat when I was still at school and I used to go out lobster potting for pocket money.

"Now my son Peter works with me, my father who is 80 still lends a hand and my wife is the daughter of a fisherman. It is not just a few men who will be put out of business by these restrictions - it's entire communities."

Scientists say cod is facing extinction in the North Sea and have also called for drastic reductions in the amounts of other white fish, like haddock and whiting, being caught.

The fishermen simply do not believe the EC's figures.

'Still cod there'

"I think the scientific data is very weak," Dennis said.

Cod catch
Scientists say stocks will collapse in 12 months
"I've spoken to fishermen in the north of the North Sea and they have been catching big cod.

"The scientists took their samples from areas where we already know there are no cod. The situation is simply not as bad as they are making out."

Dennis thinks there are other less drastic measures that could be taken to save stocks.

A policy started two years ago to stop fishing in the spawning grounds seems to be paying off.

I love this life - there's a great sense of freedom and independence

He also thinks the government could have stepped in and like in farming, paid subsidies to large trawlers to lay off fishing for periods.

"Just four months a year for a couple of years would have turned cod stocks around immediately," he said.

"We're not against conservation but the cuts they are talking about will put us out of business."

Dennis fears, like many others, that he will be out of business by the proposed reduction in trawling.

'Last stand'

And at 50, he sees little hope of alternative employment.

Franz Fischler
Franz Fischler proposes drastic cuts
"I've said to my son he should think about doing something else. But he's young.

"I love this life. There's a great sense of freedom and independence. Out there we're our own bosses, but those skills aren't transferable."

Dennis, who lives in the little village of Cullercoats on North Tyneside, does not hold out much hope the demonstration will have much effect on the Commission's decision.

"Brussels is so big I suppose they will ignore us. But we all felt we had to take one last stand."


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