ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners from Dorchester have received political backing in their calls to support local fishermen.

Greenpeace volunteers have been supporting inshore fisherman with their Be a Fisherman’s Friend campaign and the group has also received the support of Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West Sir Graham Watson.

The campaign aims to get a fairer deal for fisherman by reforming the European Common Fisheries Policy.

Sir Graham met with a group of fishermen and the Greenpeace volunteers, who have been delivering 4,000 fish cards to the Dorset public urging them to back the campaign.

Greenpeace volunteer Irene Statham, from Dorchester, said: “We were able to emphasise to Sir Graham how passionate and knowledgeable his constituents are about this issue.

“They see small fishermen as the heart of coastal communities and are shocked by the unfair deal they get.

“Many talked about industrial-sized boats ‘hoovering up’ and having no interest in maintaining local fish stocks.

“Older residents understand what overfishing has done and describe catching mackerel directly from the beach in buckets when they were children.”

Fellow Greenpeace campaigner Alicia Craw said: “Many of these fishermen have been fishing sustainably for generations, yet the EU fisheries policy and the UK quota system are heavily stacked against them – they truly are the sea underdogs.”

As he pledged his support to the campaign, Sir Graham said: “Small-scale inshore fishermen have been the lifeblood of these coastal communities for generations, but their livelihoods are now threatened by a system rigged in favour of powerful fishing interests.

“National quota systems should reward those who fish sustainably and look after their patch – I’ll keep working hard to make sure our fishermen get a fairer deal.

“So far we only have a gentleman’s agreement by EU fishing ministers on reform.

“I want to see long-lasting radical change that has the sustainability of local fishing communities at its heart.”

Among the fisherman meeting Sir Graham was Steve Rodgers, who is based in Seaton and has been in the industry since the age of 16.

He said: “The fleet of small boats in the Lyme Bay has been in decline for years because of a quota system that is shutting out fishermen like us.

“Powerful trawlers have not only sewn up most of the quota, they are also using it to plunder the spawning grounds where the fish we catch come from – so we get robbed of our fish twice.”

To support the Be a Fisherman’s Friend campaign visit greenpeace.org.uk/oceans/beafishermansfriend