Tuesday, 29 Sep 2020

Brexit fisheries row: UK ‘must escape CFP’ as EU increase fish caught in British water

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EU fishing vessels have been increasing the amount of fish they catch in UK waters at a much faster rate than the UK’s own boats, according to analysis of official landings data carried out for the Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA). The report highlights that the EU’s 27 member states have landed 60 percent more fish and shellfish from the UK’s economic exclusion zone between 2011 and 2018 while the UK increased its landing by just 17 percent. The figures were even more stark when pelagic species such as mackerel and herring were analysed.

EU vessels landed 159 percent more pelagic fish in the same period, while the UK increased its landing by 60 percent.

The Shetland Fishermen’s Association said that this increase across the board was a reflection of stocks in UK waters.

Ian Napier, who carried out the analysis for NAFC Marine Centre UHI based in Scalloway, Shetland, described these figures as a “huge disparity”.

Simon Collins, SFA executive officer, said: “If ever there was a case for the UK escaping the iron grip of the common fisheries policy, this is it.

“Not content with the fact that overseas vessels were already taking two-thirds of what should be a national natural resource, administrators have gunned the system to ensure that EU27 vessels, in particular, have taken the biggest share of the increase in catches that have come about due to stock improvements in recent years.”

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said the report draws attention to the “growing inequality of distribution catching opportunity between the UK on the one hand and the EU27 on the other”.

The report was published in July as the UK and EU clashed in Brexit trade talks.

The deadline for the EU and UK to reach a deal – the end of this year – is fast approaching, but Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned an agreement by then is unlikely as the fisheries row holds up negotiations.

He said: “The UK is effectively asking for near total exclusion of EU fishing vessels from UK waters. That is simply unacceptable.”

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He added that the EU was willing to accept that “there may be change to the benefit of UK fishermen” but that it would not be at the price of the “destruction of the EU fishing industry”.

Mr Barnier continued: “Over the past few weeks the UK has not shown the same level of engagement and readiness to find solutions respecting the EU fundamental principles and interests.

“It means simply that by its current refusal to commit to the condition of open and fair competition, and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely.”

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