UK to regain control of fishing access post-Brexit

The government has announced plans to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention in a move it called an “historic” step in delivering a fairer deal for the UK’s fishing industry. 

The London Fisheries Convention was first signed when the UK joined the European Union in 1964. It gave permission to five European countries to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of the UK’s coastline. Regaining control of the nation’s oceans was labelled a priority by the government and, yesterday, it informed other member states signed up to the convention that it had triggered a two-year withdrawal period.

Once the UK departs from the European Union, it will not be subject to the Common Fisheries Policy. Regardless, the nation would still be restricted under the London Fisheries Convention unless it withdraws. By leaving the agreement, the UK will become responsible for managing its fisheries to ensure a fair, sustainable and profitable sector.

“Leaving the London Fisheries Convention is an important moment as we take back control of our fishing policy,” said environment secretary Michael Gove.

“This is an historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union – one which leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the UK.”

To replace the convention, the government will introduce a Fisheries Bill, which will control access to the UK’s waters and outline fishing quotas post-Brexit. This will be achieved by working closely with nearby countries, allowing the coastal communities to thrive in a world without the EU.

The news was applauded by Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, who commented: “This is welcome news and an important part of establishing the UK as an independent coastal state with sovereignty over its own exclusive economic zone.”

According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), the fishing sector contributes £1.3 billion to the economy and provides 34,600 jobs. In 2015, there were over 6,000 UK fishing vessels, which landed 708,000 tonnes (t) of fish at a value of £775 million.

Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000t of fish were caught in 2015 by fishing vessels from the London Fisheries Convention countries made up of France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. The fish, including mackerel and herring, were caught within 12 nautical miles of the British coast and were worth approximately £17m.

The government aims to work alongside devolved administrations to preserve and increase fish stocks in the long run, to help make the trade sustainable. A period of engagement will begin this summer on the Fisheries Bill with the devolved administrations, fishermen, trade organisations, fish processors and the public to ensure that a deal is delivered that will benefit the whole of the UK.

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