North Devons fishing fleet is staring into the abyss after being hit with yet another ray ban. There are now no local trawlers operating out of North Devon and skippers say they are being forced to sell up following the European Commissions latest ban on landing small-eyed ray, which makes up about 40 per cent of the fishery. It has heaped misery on an already precarious situation with a virtual ban on landing bass as well as a huge reduction in the sole quota. Plus, according to the rules, restricted species caught while fishing for something else are simply thrown back, many of them dead. Bideford skipper Dick Fishleigh has sold his 12-metre boat, while fellow skipper Steve Taylor says he will have to sell if things dont improve. Scott Wharton of S and P Trawlers said all four of his Ilfracombe boats had moved to South Devon. He said: Ten years ago we had about 20 to 30 boats here. The general consensus is the ban is ill-thought-out, rushed, with no consideration and no scientific facts behind it. The ray fishery is 50-60 per cent of our total at certain times of the year. If you take out one species it puts pressure on others and it takes the viability out of it. His brother and business partner Paul added: Theres not really much left to fish for in the Bristol Channel and it stops 99 per cent of the fishing here. The unwelcome news follows a similar ban in October 2014. Slender hopes are now pinned on a crunch EU fisheries committee meeting on March 21/22 when UK representatives hope to get the ban overturned.Pictures are all thats left...Mr Fishleigh, who with his sons Steven and Daniel operated the Sue Ellen from Bideford before being forced to sell, said it was a sad end to a wonderful way of life the family had enjoyed for some 30 years. All thats left is the photos on the wall, he said. Our main catch was bass and sole, so we had to sell before we got in a heap of trouble. They have changed the rules so its not viable any more. They are trying to decommission people by bankruptcy and they dont really care about individuals. There has been anger and sadness at the news no local trawlers are now operating out of North Devon following another devastating ban on landing small-eyed ray.Voluntary conservation wasnt enoughThrough North Devon Fishermens Association, local skippers have already participated in a series of voluntary ray conservation measures, including a minimum landing size for the past 10 years and protection of nursery areas. Steve Taylor, who runs the Hannah Marie and Ann Louise under 10m trawlers from Bideford, also says he will have to sell up if the ban continues. The biggest percentage of my catch is ray and the stocks are in perfect condition I am catching as many rays now as I was 30 years ago.Efforts in EuropeA spokesman for Defra said it was trying to overturn the ban at the EU. They said: We understand the impact on local fishermen which is why we strongly opposed the inclusion of a no landing provision for small-eyed ray at December Council. Raymond Finch MEP is the only British co-ordinator on the fisheries committee. He said: This crass decision will only increase the likelihood of the UK voting to leave the EU so we can once again control our greatest natural resource. I look forward to a time when our fishermen, who are the true stewards of the sea, have a strong input to the decisions made towards restoring a strong and sustainable UK fishing industry.