UK wants to set own fishing access rules after Brexit

James Marshall
July 6, 2018

"Fisheries management is fully devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and our fisheries resources are shared across borders, so we need to make sure that any new policies, approaches and processes work for all four United Kingdom nations." says Debbie Crockard, MCS Senior Fisheries Policy Advocate.

Whilst it is great see a commitment to managing fisheries with the whole marine environment in mind, a lot of what's in the white paper is just a continuation of current European Union policies.

"The fisheries white paper.will outline how powers to be proposed in the Fisheries Bill, which will be introduced in this session of Parliament, will give the United Kingdom full control of its waters and the ability to set fishing opportunities such as quota", said the government. It will also look to propose a suite of measures to "improve the sustainability of the fishing industry, supporting the next generation of fishermen while protecting our precious marine environment".

"The government's plans for fisheries after Brexit are promising but alarmingly devoid of detail about its environmental commitments", said lawyers at NGO ClientsEarth.

"The paper completely ignores the critical importance of ongoing access to [EU] labour for the seafood processing sector and, whilst acknowledging seafood trade as "vital", provides no detail whatsoever on how seafood exports will be protected from potentially damaging trade barriers".

A United Kingdom fishing framework will be established to give devolved nations maximum control while maintaining coherence of the overall policy and compliance with worldwide agreements.

For its part, the European Commission's Article 50 Taskforce led by Michel Barnier argues that EU vessels must continue to be allowed unfettered access to fish in United Kingdom waters if London wants to continue selling its products into the EU market.

The paper will also commit to publishing an annual statement setting out the health of fish stocks and based on the latest scientific evidence.

As part of its proposals, the United Kingdom government will commit to publishing an annual statement of fish stocks and promise to work with devolved administrations to help any struggling stocks to recover. As fishermen can not target a certain area for risk of accidentally catching the exhausted stock, they either have to stop fishing or risk breaking the law if they land the extra stock.

In addition, it is proposing to introduce a scheme to enable fishermen avoid the problem with choke species while deterring discards.

The move was welcomed by Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, who said the plans were "clear and cogent, and aligned with worldwide law".

"If the government really believes that fish in the sea are a public resource and the rights to catch them are a public asset, putting this principle into action should, by all rights, give a much bigger slice of the pie to local, low-impact fishers", said Paul Keenlyside, political advisor at Greenpeace UK.

The paper refers to sustainability, legislation, quota allocation and access of foreign vessels to United Kingdom waters as well as access of the United Kingdom fleet to other country's waters.

'Of course, there is a long way to go, and we now need our governments to show real backbone in the Brexit negotiations to ensure that these aspirations'.

Interested parties are invited to share their views on proposals outlined in the white paper during a 10 week consultation.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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