POOLE fishermen protesting at soaring fuel costs say they have not ruled out blockades if their calls for help go unheard.

Dozens of boats took to water on Thursday night with fishermen brandishing placards and banners in protest at diesel costs, which they say threaten to put them out of business.

Graeme Whitworth, a lobster fisherman who helped organise the action, said the cost of his fuel had risen 40 per cent since January, but fish prices were no higher.

"Usually we're just hard working people trying to make a living, but we have got to the point where this is almost stopping us from doing that," he said.

"If fuel prices go up we'll just have to stop taking the boats out."

The protesters are calling for the government to offer subsidies already being dished out to their French and Spanish counterparts - up to 30,000 euros for each fisherman over three years.

But UK Fisheries Minister Jonathan Shaw has ruled out this course, although he said the government would work with the industry to help in other ways.

Graeme added: "We're certainly not on a level playing field with Europe. This is a peaceful protest, but that's not to say we wouldn't go down the blockade route if we get nowhere. We could lose our livelihoods."

He warned the collapse of the fishing industry in Poole, where there are just over 100 commercial vessels, including some 60 commercial fishing boats, would have knock-on effects.

He said: "It's usually reckoned every one man at sea in a fishing boat keeps three people ashore in work - in delivering the fish, working in shops, making fishing gear. It will have a knock-on effect, and it would mean a lot more fish will have to be imported."

The cause is being taken up at a national level by the National Federation of Fishermen's organisations.

Chief executive Barrie Deas said: "Every sector of the fishing fleet is now suffering badly.

"The NFFO has received calls from every part of the coast, graphically describing landings where the largest part of the vessel's earnings is swallowed by fuel costs."