3 April 2019
At a critical juncture in the Brexit process, around 70 parliamentarians gathered yesterday at an event in the Palace of Westminster, organised by the NFFO and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation. The event was designed to provide a platform through which parliamentarians could express support for the fishing industry. Fisheries Minister, Robert Goodwill addressed the event, as did Shadow Fisheries Minister, Luke Pollard and Lib-Democrat Fisheries Spokesman, Alistair Carmichael.
The outlook for the UK fishing industry as the UK stands poised to leave the Common Fisheries Policy was presented by Barrie Deas and Bertie Armstrong of the NFFO and SFF respectively.
Representatives from all the major fishing regions and sectors and beyond attended and took the opportunity to brief local MPs and members of the House of Lords.
Fisheries Minister, Robert Goodwill, thanked his predecessor, George Eustice, who was also present, and made the following points.
As MP for Whitby and Scarborough and a former shipping minister, I know the importance of the fishing industry to coastal communities and the huge diversity in our fishing fleets across the country. The processing sector is also vital
I also have processing plants, such as Whitby Seafoods in my constituency.
Importance of the fishing industry
The marine fishing, aquaculture and processing sectors together contribute £1.57 bn to the UK economy and employ around 33,000 people. but it is not just those people employed in the industry who are dependent on it. In coastal regions throughout the UK, fishing is part of the fabric of the community, it is central to the culture and atmosphere of coastal towns. But over the last 40 years some of these towns have seen a decline.
Our exit from the EU will give us an opportunity to rebalance that – and benefit our fishing industry and coastal communities.
There is a huge diversity in our fishing fleets across the country. This reflects the diversity and richness of our fishing grounds.
There will be challenges and these will be different for each of the sectors, but our fishermen are absolutely right to look forward to life after the Common Fisheries Policy and the sea of opportunity that lies ahead.
Leaving the EU will mean taking control of our waters for the first time in 40 years, and giving the UK the chance to decide who can access our waters and on what terms. Let me be clear, automatic rights for foreign vessels to access our waters will end.
Leaving the EU gives us a golden opportunity to secure a fairer share of fish for our fishermen and set out a sustainable future for our fisheries.
There will be other opportunities too – to look at how we share out the additional quota we negotiate, to make fisheries management more responsive and flexible, to develop new, lucrative markets and to focus on marketing local and premium products. Also an opportunity to build on our relation Norway, Faroes & Iceland as other independent coastal states
Business readiness and trade
Getting a fairer share of the fish in our waters is just part of the story. Being able to sell that fish for a good price and get it to market quickly is critical.
A priority therefore is going to be ensuring that trade can continue as smoothly as possible and with minimal disruption – especially if we leave the EU without a deal later this month. The live shellfish sector is uppermost in our mind here.
Looking further ahead, the Government is also committed to securing the best trade deals for the UK, with concerted efforts being made with partner countries to transition existing EU-third country Free Trade Agreements.
We now have the necessary legislation in place to ensure that in a NO Deal scenario the same rules will apply from Day One as apply today and we will ensure that we have a functioning legislative framework in place.
The Fisheries Bill will enable us to amend policies over time and embeds our commitments to sustainability. In looking at developing our future fisheries policies, we’re keen to take our time to consult properly, pilot where appropriate and be mindful of unintended consequences. But also learn the lessons from the rigid and cumbersome CFP by being able to move faster.
It is vital that we are able to protect our waters to ensure that fishing vessels continue to fish legally and sustainably, to enable trade in fish to be maintained and to meet our obligations as a responsible, independent coastal state. The Marine Management Organisation is recruiting and training more marine enforcement officers and support staff. We are bringing in significantly increased levels of surface aerial surveillance.
NFFO Chief Executive, Barrie Deas said, after the event:
“This was a strong show of support for the fishing industry from our legislators. The support was from both houses of Parliament and across the party spectrum. There is a widespread recognition that we have been tied into the CFP for 40 years and that set of arrangements have worked systematically, from the outset, to our disadvantage. Different routes to leave the EU are under discussion but whichever one is finally taken, leaving the EU means that the UK’s legal status changes and we will become an independent coastal state, with regulatory autonomy and the freedom to negotiate as an independent party.
The EU will, of course do everything in its power to maintain the arrangements – on access to UK waters and quota shares – which have worked to its advantage and our disadvantage for 40 years. That is why it is so important for the fishing industry to have strong support in Parliament, and across the country as we move into the next stages of Brexit.