Gove unveils amendment to Fisheries Bill

The UK government could be legally required to pursue a greater share of fishing opportunities for British vessels when negotiating a fisheries agreement with the EU.

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Proposed today, the amendment to the Fisheries Bill would force the secretary of state to seek a fairer entitlement of fish for the UK than it currently receives in the Common Fisheries Policy,

This could overhaul a system that sees other EU member states catch more than eight times what UK vessels do in each other’s waters.

As well as strengthening the law, environment secretary Michael Gove today announced £37.2m in extra funding for the fishing industry during the Brexit implementation period.

“We are taking back control of our waters and will secure a fairer share of fishing opportunities for the UK fishing industry,” he said. “The amendment to the Fisheries Bill will give legal weight to this commitment.

“New funding will boost the industry as we become an independent coastal state, preparing it to receive a greater share of future fishing opportunities.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said EU member states caught around 760,000 tonnes of fish in UK waters each year between 2012 and 2016, worth £540m in annual revenue.

In contrast, UK vessels landed in the region of 90,000 tonnes in other member states’ waters annually over the same time period, worth approximately £110m in revenue each year.

Gove also said today that the government would next year set new long-term arrangements for the UK’s fishing industry in preparation for when it stops receiving support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund in 2020.

Devolved administrations will be responsible for their own schemes, but in England, these will support improvements in port infrastructure and innovation in new technologies.

In addition, Gove said the government would help the sector adjust to new arrangements on fishing by improving capacity and capability to exploit new export opportunities

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) welcomed the strengthening of the Fisheries Bill, and said there must be no link between access to UK waters and trade with the EU.

“Particularly pleasing is the rejection of French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion that existing shares of fish be maintained post-Brexit,” SFF chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, said.

“As we move into a new era of fisheries management, the SFF is committed to ensuring that Brexit benefits fishermen who operate vessels of all sizes right across our coastal communities.”

Image credit | iStock 

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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