UK outlines "fairer" post-Brexit fisheries plan

UK fishing vessel

The government of the United Kingdom's proposed future fisheries policy for after the country’s departure from the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has been published in a new consultation document.

The new policy has the aim of delivering “fairer and more scientific” means of allocating fishing opportunities within territorial waters, according to U.K. Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Introducing the White Paper, Gove said the allocation of fishing opportunities under the CFP was “outdated” and that the United Kingdom’s share did not accurately reflect the resources in U.K. waters. 

Between 2012 and 2016, other E.U. member states’ vessels annually landed on average 760,000 metric tons (MT) of fish worth GBP 540 million (USD 713.4 million, EUR 613.2 million) in U.K. waters; whereas U.K. vessels landed approximately 90,000 MT of fish worth GBP 110 million (USD 145.3 million, EUR 124.9 million) in other member states’ waters per year in the same time period, according to Gove.

“As we leave the E.U., we are committed to working closely with our partners to manage shared stocks in a sustainable way and share fishing opportunities on a fair and scientific basis. We have instigated a comprehensive program of research to inform this process and provide the evidence to secure a fairer share of fishing opportunities for U.K. fishers.”

The minister also highlighted “specific and considerable opportunities” for U.K. fisheries outside of the E.U. 

“In 2016, the U.K. exported GBP 1.17 billion (USD 1.5 billion, EUR 1.3 billion) of seafood to the E.U., and imported GBP 1.04 billion (USD 1.4 billion, EUR 1.2 billion) from the E.U.," Gove said. "Equipped with a new fisheries policy, the U.K. fisheries sector will be in a strong position to trade seafood with export markets around the world.”

The White Paper proposes that following Brexit, the country would continue to work under the principle of maximum sustainable yield (MSY), which has helped to restore stocks and to protect valuable marine ecosystems. Wasteful discarding will also continue to be prevented.

Gove said that as “a dynamic industry,” fisheries required rapid and responsive regulation. 

“Bringing control back to the U.K. will enable greater scrutiny of fisheries policies, and swifter responses to changing scientific advice or circumstances and meeting our international obligations. This White Paper reflects continuing discussions with the Devolved Administrations, who are responsible for domestic fisheries management in their areas, and stakeholders. I hope that we will continue to work together to take advantage of the many and significant opportunities facing the fishing industry across our island nation," he said. "Together we will cast a future arrangement that is good for fisheries, for the environment, and for consumers."

After leaving the E.U., the United Kingdom will become an independent coastal state under international law (U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea – UNCLOS) and will have the right to control and manage access to fish in U.K. waters out to 200 nautical miles or the median line.

In the short-term, U.K. fisheries policy will align with the agreement reached with the E.U. on 19 March 2018 on an implementation period. This period will serve as a “stepping stone” to a future relationship with the EU. However, from 2020, the United Kingdom will be negotiating access and fishing opportunities for 2021 as an independent coastal state.

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is now calling for feedback on the White Paper from industry, NGOs, and other stakeholders. It has set a response deadline of 12 September.


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