Fishermen say they are being forced out

Fishing boats in Rye Harbour. 21/8/13
Fishing boats in Rye Harbour. 21/8/13
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RYE fishermen say their livelihoods are under threat after being forced to quit moorings used at Rye Harbour for hundreds of years.

They say the Environment Agency is using ‘bully-boy tactics’ to force them to quit the chain moorings near the river mouth.

But in a statement this week the Environment Agency said: “Boats moored on the chain moorings drift out into the main channel. This restricts the available width of navigable water to manoeuvre the large commercial ships that trade to Rye Wharf. The closure of the chain moorings will mitigate the risk of collision in the main shipping channel.

“The harbour authority took the decision to close the chain moorings as of April 1 this year. No vessel is authorised to moor on the chain moorings and no owner shall be permitted to place or store any fishing gear on the foreshore.

Nick Watson, who has a boat at the moorings, said: “They have offered us moorings on the other side of the river but that is not good to us.

“It would make it dangerous to get to our boats and hard to put out to sea. This will put us out of business.

“My father fished from these moorings and my grandfather built boats there. There has never been a problem.”

Lee Carroll, who also fishes, said: “The whole Rye Harbour community is built on fishing and there is hundreds of years of heritage and history at stake here. These moorings have been used since the 1700’s.

“They talk about health and safety but that is a joke. We go out to sea in all conditions and are safer when moored.

“We are talking about people’s livelihoods here.

“The Environment Agency has been using bully-boy tactics and some fishermen have already moved their boats as a result of the pressure they are under.

“This is really all about giving priority to the bigger boats that come in and trying to get rid of the small fishing boats that have always been here.”