FISHERMEN say they have not put to sea for three months because of adverseweather and falling fish stocks.

High rainfall over the winter has caused a surge of freshwater in the Thames Estuary, which has diluted the salty water and caused fish to migrate to other areas.

In addition, frequent stormy spells have made conditions too hazardous for trawlers.

Leigh fisherman Paul Gilson said: “There has been massive amounts of fresh water coming down the river and the fish have just disappeared.

“Salt water fish don’t like fresh water. It’s being bad since the end of November. Opportunities to fish have been negligible.

“Since December, low pressure has been coming through at such a rate there hasn’t been time between depressions to work.

“It would be flat for a few hours, but you couldn’t get to sea because another gale would be on the way. Many boats haven’t had a day’s work in three months. Some have only just had their first couple of trips out.”

The Environment Agency said it could be another week before the water returns to normal.

Spokesman Dave Ferguson said: “It is down to high rainfall recently.

There is still a lot of floodwater travelling down the Thames and pushing more fresh water into the estuary than normal.

“Our sympathies are with the fishermen who have been affected as a result of rainfall in recent months. It will take some days for rainfall in the Thames to flush through the system.”

The weather has caused hardship for fishermen around the country and has prompted the Government to step in to help.

Funding will be made available towards the cost of replacing lost or damaged fishing gear, such as crab and lobster pots and other static gear, which could be worth up to £5,000 to fishermen.

There will also be flexibility on quota allocations to allow fishermen to make up lost income when conditions return to normal, and access to a £10million business support grant for flood-affected businesses.

Fisheries Minister George Eustice said: “The storms over the last fewmonths have had a severe impact on fishing communities and we recognise that many fishermen have lost static net gear, such as lobster and crab pots.”