UK government plans for independent fisheries policy
The announcement of the White Paper, subject to a consultation period that lasts into September, has been welcomed by industry figures and quickly condemned by environmental organisations.
“Leaving the EU creates a sea of opportunity for our fishing industry. Outside the Common Fisheries Policy we can take back control of our waters and revitalise our coastal communities,” announced Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
“We will be able to put in place our own systems, becoming a world leader in managing our resources while protecting the marine environment.”
The UK will remain under Common Fisheries Policy rules during the implementation period, but from 2020 will be negotiating access to waters and fishing opportunities as an independent coastal state.
According to a DEFRA statement, the white paper will set out a number of methods to explore fairer allocation of fishing opportunities, such as zonal attachment – which is based on distribution of fish stocks, rather than historical data.
The announcement makes clear that a commitment to sustainable fisheries is at the heart of the White Paper’s proposals, specifically stating that this includes “ending the wasteful discarding of fish and making clear vessels will only be allowed to fish in our waters if they adhere to our high sustainability standards.”
Among the proposals are a commitment to publishing an annual statement setting out the health of fish stocks and based on the latest scientific evidence, and the paper will outline a new approach to tackling choke species. Also on the agenda are proposals for two new approaches in England; a reserve of quota that could be used to offset choke species, coupled with a new scheme to help fishermen unable to find quota to set against their catch.
“Today the Government has presented a broad vision for post-Brexit fisheries that is clear and cogent - and importantly, is aligned with international law. I am sure that it will attract wide support across the industry and Parliament,” commented NFFO chief executive Barrie Deas, while SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong’s response was also positive.
“The white paper enshrines the important elements that we have been arguing for to forge a sustainable future for our industry: allowing the UK to become an independent coastal state, to take charge of who catches what where and to resist any and all attempts to link access to our waters to access to EU markets,” he said.
“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 become reality.” ■