When the UK leaves the European Union, we will once again be a true island, coastal state. No longer tied to the Common Fisheries Policy, it will be an opportunity for us to completely regain control of our waters and the resources within them, as well as the flexibility to negotiate with other countries and ensure stocks are fished sustainably.
Leaving behind the common agricultural policy means we can develop a new approach to farming which is both better for the natural world and for our food producers. And departing from the common fisheries policy means we can put in place policies which are better for our marine environment and our coastal communities.
The EU’s current fisheries policy allows all European boats access to EU waters and fishing grounds, which it says allows fishermen to compete fairly. Up to now the EU has rejected the idea that Britain can unilaterally dictate the terms on which other countries can fish in its waters.
However, EU-based fleets land about eight times as much fish in UK waters as British fishermen do in EU waters, under the common fisheries policy. This means that the British share of their own fish is greatly depleted.
In 2014, half of UK fish production was exported to the EU, a quarter to outside the EU and only a quarter was consumed domestically.
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations says that the EU’s common fisheries policy enshrines historic claims to key species in a system that it describes as grossly unfair. The federation said France had 84 per cent of the quota for cod in the Channel and the UK 9 per cent. In the Celtic Sea, France had 66 per cent of the haddock quota and the UK 10 per cent.
The Scottish Fisheries Federation too, says 60 percent of what would be Scottish fish is caught by other EU fishing nations, and has long argued that decades of EU membership has weakened the industry severely.
What we have now however, is an opportunity for real reform; the chance to look after our fishermen and the fishing industry.
The Environment Secretary Michael Gove today launched the Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generation paper. It’s premise, is that the UK should have full control of its waters and the ability to establish its own quotas for UK-based vessels.
Most notably, it says that access to British waters for EU vessels and access to the EU market for British fish will be treated as separate questions. Fishermen fear that EU countries may insist on continuing access for their vessels to UK waters in return for market access for British fish. Most of the fish caught by British vessels are exported and most of the fish eaten here are imported. But treating this issue as two separate ones, fishing will now be considered as a part of the whole food and drink component of negotiations.
“It’s an opportunity for our fishing industry to revive, for our coastal communities to thrive, and for us to set a gold standard on sustainable fisheries management” Secretary of State @michaelgove on the #fishing white paper launched today. Find out more https://t.co/n5uXb4YlDy pic.twitter.com/CH8CYuhdeX
— Defra UK (@DefraGovUK) July 4, 2018
Additionally, the government will also promise measures to help fishermen unable to catch any fish because they have exhausted their quota for one species. Under the discard ban they cannot throw these fish, known as choke species, overboard and cannot keep fishing for other species because of the risk of accidentally catching the exhausted stock. Under the new system fishermen will have access to a new quota reserve for choke species.
The Prime Minister Theresa May today has laid the groundwork for future policy decisions saying that:
“The plans set out today demonstrate the bright future in store as we build UK fishing industry for future generations by putting the importance of a healthy marine environment at its heart.”
The Environment Secretary Michael Gove echoed her sentiment saying that:
“We will be able to put in place our own systems, becoming a world leader in managing our resources while protecting the marine environment.”
Barrie Deas, chief executive of the federation, said: “This is good news for British fishermen because it affords an opportunity to rebalance the quotas that have worked to our disadvantage for 45 years.”
This is a promising sign of things to come. Brexit is our opportunity to alter policy injustices that the European Union have inflicted upon British businesses and industries. This is the first step in the right direction.