Both sides of the Christmas break have seen intense activity at Westminster as the Fisheries Bill, the first piece primary fisheries legislation for decades, passes through the parliamentary process. The central purpose of the Bill is to provide UK fisheries ministers with powers to set quotas and control access over fishing in UK waters, when the UK leaves the EU - and therefore the CFP.
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The last Fisheries Council in which the UK will participate as an EU member state concluded in the early hours of 19th December. It was dominated by issues relating to chokes in mixed fisheries, particularly those for which zero catch advice had been given. As expected, whilst some progress was made at the Brussels meeting, many difficult issues remain to be resolved in the New Year and beyond.
December Council. Despite a four-year phase-in, it seems highly unlikely that the Council of Ministers, which begins today, 17th December, will resolve all the outstanding problems associated with the implementation of the landing obligation.
The December Council of Ministers will not only be the last in which the UK participates but one of the most complex. A perfect storm of conflicting regulations means that ministers face a number of unpalatable choices and trade-offs. These conflicts include:
The EU landings obligation comes fully into force on 1st January 2019 and will then apply to all quota species, unless a specific de minimis or high survival exemption applies. The full implementation of the landing obligation presents a number of challenges for the fishing industry, fisheries managers, and enforcement authorities, on a scale of magnitude not seen before. The problem of chokes in mixed fisheries, and the challenge of monitoring and controlling fishing activities in diverse fleets across a vast marine environment are at the top of the list of those challenges.
The Government is pulling out all the stops on fishing ahead of Tuesday’s critical vote on the draft Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. Fishing has become a pivotal issue on both sides of the Channel, and the Government amendment, now proposed, will oblige any future Secretary of State to cede access to fish in UK waters only in return for fairer quota shares for the UK. As an example of where change is needed, the UK share of Channel cod is 9%, whilst the French share is 84%.
The Withdrawal Agreement and Political Statement on the UK’s future relationship with the EU has put fishing in the spotlight. The NFFO looks at what is at stake.
Like many others, we are studying the text of the draft EU/UK withdrawal agreement to understand its implications for the future of the UK fishing industry. Our provisional view is that this is an extremely important first step towards a new future for the UK as an independent coastal state, denied us 40 years ago when the UK signed up to the Common Fisheries Policy. It is, however, only a first step. Further challenges lie ahead in securing the actual access arrangements and quota shares consistent with that new status.
Defra is consulting on a proposal to require all vessels below 12 metres in length to fit and operate inshore VMS equipment when operating in English waters. This mobile phone based technology will allow regulators to track the location, speed and heading of fishing vessels in near real time. English vessels operating outside English waters would also be required to operate the equipment. Over-12 metre vessels (around 327) are already subject to satellite based monitoring. Around 2751 vessels would be included in the new arrangements. The purchase and installation costs would initially be met through EMFF. Reporting costs and replacement equipment would be purchased and installed at the vessel owners’ expense.
Risk & Policy Analysts (RPA) Ltd have been commissioned by Defra to carry out work on the evaluation of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and its implementation in England and the devolved administrations, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.