Cornwall Council has voted to show its support for Cornwall’s fishing industry, but some councillors have criticised the motion as saying it says “nothing new” and will have no practical impact.

A meeting of the full council on Tuesday, July 25 voted in favour of a motion put forward by councillors from across the chamber, including Mebyon Kernow, the Independents and the Conservatives, that its members recognise and note “the significant contribution made by Cornwall’s fishing industry to the Cornish economy, Cornwall’s ports and harbours, and our maritime communities”.

The council committed to “sustaining strong partnerships with Cornwall-based industries engaged in fishing, processing and distribution of Cornish fish and shellfish worldwide, thereby supporting and sustaining the growth of our fishing industry” and “commits to supporting our fishing industry through encouraging locally caught produce to be served in our schools, colleges and care homes”.

The council also agreed to continue supporting Cornwall Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA), working in close collaboration with Cornish fishermen and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), to ensure the conservation of fish and shellfish stocks and the preservation of the seabed and our coastal waters.

However, the motion was criticised by some councillors as a sop that doesn’t actually offer anything new in support of the beleaguered fishing industry.

The council’s Liberal Democrat leader Colin Martin said after the meeting that his party supported the motion but said it would have no “practical impact” and called on the Conservative-run council to carry out an online survey asking people how they have been affected by changes to the fishing sector over the past five years and what specific, practical changes they would like to see.

He said: “Unless we give everyone in the industry a genuine chance to tell us what support they need, then this motion is nothing more than a flag-waving exercise that doesn’t help the sector. We all have great respect for those who risk their lives at sea in order to put food on our plates, but it seems like some politicians don’t actually want to hear the truth about the problems the industry is facing.”

Cllr Martin’s proposal was seconded by fellow Liberal Democrat Thalia Marrington, who represents Newlyn, Cornwall’s largest fishing port. She expressed concerns that too many decisions were being made without taking into account the views of small family businesses.

“Big businesses know how to make their voices heard and there’s a danger that this can distort the way decisions are made. As councillors we should ensure we’re as informed as we can be before we make decisions, so getting clear information and views on challenges, threats and opportunities from all involved in the industry seemed a sensible and welcome addition to me.”

The proposed survey was rejected by one vote. The original motion was then approved with cross-party support.

Independent councillor Julian German also believed it was a missed opportunity to give more support to Cornwall’s fishing community.

He said: “Of course we all support our fishing industry, the Harbours Board, the IFCA and all those involved, but this is motherhood and apple pie. In this motion there is no policy change or financial commitment.

“What this motion is about is assuaging the guilt of those IFCA councillor members who did not support the introduction of the emergency by-law for crab and lobster pot fishing back in December 2022. A consultation showed strong support for the aims of the by-law from fishermen wanting to see measures to manage and reduce potting effort for crabs and lobsters. The data underpinning the proposals showed that there is a very pressing need to find solutions to managing effort, before it is too late for the stocks that directly support 271 vessels across Cornwall.”

Cllr German added: “Rather than support conservation and the sustainability of the fishery, some IFCA members succumbed to political pressure from MPs and this has fatally harmed the fishery. What make my blood boil, is that fishermen around our coast, including Gorran Haven, Portloe, Portscatho and St Mawes, are going out of business due to this lack of action.

“So, to give a positive way forward for the movers of the motion and the council’s administration, let’s use the historic Memorandum of Understanding with Brittany, albeit ignored over the last two years, the first three articles of which relate to working together to support our fishing industry. Let’s proactively engage with Brittany to work together in the best interests of our fishing industry. Do this and we may see something of substance as a result.”

The meeting of the full council was due to be broadcast live and then archived for the public to watch. However, due to technical reasons, this was unable to happen.