SCORES of fishermen say they are on the verge of losing their livelihoods because the government has reduced the amount of fish they can catch.
European Union laws limit the amount that may be fished to preserve stocks.
But around 50 small boats – under 10m – that go out daily from Portsmouth, Gosport, Havant and Chichester are now at risk with fishermen working 18-hour days for next to nothing.
They are now calling on the government’s Marine Management Organisation, which sets the quotas, to revise them, making them fairer on boats under 10m.
Plaice, skate and ray fisheries were all closed last month.
And the cod quota was last week slashed from 400kg to 250kg.
Peter Williams, of Grove Road, Havant, is leading the campaign for fairer quotas.
Mr Williams has already fished 150kg meaning he has 100kg of cod left to fish until the end of the year at just £1.50 per kilo.
The MMO said yesterday it will be raising the quota for cod back to 400kg after negotiating a swap with larger vessels.
But Mr Williams said it is still well below the amount needed to sustain a boat.
Mr Williams said: ‘It is coming up to Christmas and all of us have children and families and mortgages. How are we supposed to eat?
‘We are being treated like criminals. Inshore fishermen look after the sea. We manage the sea and know what’s going on.
‘We have just four per cent of the quota and that is shared around all of the inshore boats around the UK.
‘We go out every day, catch fish, bring it back to market. Four per cent is not enough – something is very wrong here.’
Fisherman Mark Sevier, from Southsea, was relying on oysters to get him through the winter but that has been cut to a two-week window.
He said: ‘When we stop oystering what will we do? What’s left to fish?’
Eric McCleod, director of Viviers Fish Market, said: ‘The people running the fisheries are the ones who are wrecking it.
‘They’re academics, their not of the trade.
‘The fishermen will go out of business because of the closures being forced upon.’
The MMO’s head of statistics and fisheries management, Kevin Williamson, said quotas are set annually at a European level by fisheries ministers with UK input from Defra.
He added: ‘We aim to help the fishing industry make use of all available quota.
‘The early closure of fisheries is always a last resort, and we are aware of the impact closures have and the frustration caused, particularly to those who have not exhausted their quotas.
‘If limits are exceeded they will have to be paid back next year and penalties may be applied by the European Commission, meaning the UK would have even less quota for 2015.’