With the United Kingdom due to withdraw from the European Union on Friday, 31 January, new legislation has been introduced into U.K. parliament that creates the powers for the country to operate as an independent coastal state and to manage its fish stocks independently.
Beyond delivering a legal guarantee that the United Kingdom will leave the E.U.’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) at the end of the transition period in December 2020, and also ending the automatic rights for E.U. vessels to fish in British waters, the new fisheries bill contains provisions that take into account climate change’s impact on fisheries, as well as the new objective to move towards “climate-smart fishing” in U.K. waters.
The bill also sets out a new legal requirement for all fish stocks to be fished at sustainable levels, and creates guidelines to ensure fisheries management decisions are made strategically, for the benefit of the whole marine environment.
Furthermore, fisheries management plans will be tailored to the country’s mixed fisheries, which have lots of fish stocks swimming together and where certain fishing practices can have a significant impact on the marine environment. The plans will also recognize that many U.K. fish stocks are “shared stocks” as they will swim in both domestic and other coastal states’ waters. For these stocks, the bill identifies negotiation with other coastal states will be crucial to their sustainable management.
The bill will also seek to boost the U.K. government’s flagship Blue Belt program by ensuring that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has the powers it needs to provide advice and assistance on sustainable fisheries, marine planning, licensing, and conservation overseas.
Provisions on sustainable fishing will be underpinned by the requirement for U.K. government and the devolved administrations to publish a Joint Fisheries Statement to coordinate fisheries management in order to achieve sustainable stocks.
The new bill also includes funding rules, enabling government to provide financial support for the breadth of what is currently funded by the E.U.’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), such as training and port improvements.
“This new fisheries bill takes back control of our waters, enabling the U.K. to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for our coastal communities, whilst securing the long-term health of British fisheries,” U.K. Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said. “Leaving the E.U.’s failed Common Fisheries Policy is one of the most important benefits of Brexit. It means we can create a fairer system which will allow marine habitats to thrive, with new powers to support our fishing sector and conserve our wonderful Blue Belt at home and abroad.”
U.K. Fisheries Minister George Eustice said the bill represented independence for U.K. fishermen.
“The fisheries bill gives us the powers to implement our own independent fisheries policy, improve our marine habitats, and make decisions based on the health of our fish stocks, not vested interests,” Eustice said. “For many people in coastal communities, taking back control and leaving the Common Fisheries Policy is at the heart of getting Brexit done, and this bill delivers for the environment, fishermen, and the union.”
Photo courtesy of U.K. government