It is difficult to glean much from the official statements made by the EU and the UK after each round in the intensified UK/EU negotiations on their future relationship. Every statement has to be understood in terms of each side positioning for advantage in the talks. The overall impression, however, is quite substantial progress on many fronts but very wide gaps on a few – including a huge gulf on fisheries. The political ambition on both sides is to reach a deal but the Prime Minister and Chief Negotiator, David Frost, have made it clear that on fisheries the EU will have to travel a very long way from its current position – which is very close to the status quo – if a deal is to be made. The Commission is operating under a mandate from the member states which makes compromise impossible. These two opposing factors make the likelihood on no deal, at present, the most likely outcome. In the event of no-deal on a fisheries framework agreement, the EU would have to make a judgement whether the self-harm it would inflict on itself as well as the UK, by withholding a trade deal, would be the right course of action, notwithstanding the rhetoric generated throughout the negotiations. If it made good on its threats, the UK would trade with the EU on WTO terms from 1st January.
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The Shellfish Industry Advisory Group established in November last year has made substantial progress, despite the crisis in the shellfish markets caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
A recent teleconference organised by Defra, was held to discuss the contents of the Benyon Report, by ex-Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, on Highly Protected Marine Areas. The meeting revealed the strength of feeling across the fishing industry against an attempt to shoehorn No Take Zones into the already established process for designating and managing marine protected areas.
Of the eight objectives included in the Fisheries Bill, five of them relate to fishing sustainably. And that’s fine. Without a functioning ecosystem and policies which limit fishing to safe levels, there will be no fishing industry. It makes sense too, from an economic perspective, for our management decisions to aim to achieve maximum yields, where that is a reasonable option. What fisherman would be against high sustainable yields?
Government, the national fishing federations and the Fishermen’s Mission share a commitment to the whole fishing industry. This means not only the fishing businesses that make up the sector - but also the crews who work on the vessels as owner/operators, self-employed share-fishermen, or fishermen under employment contracts.
A small delegation from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations met recently (remotely) with Chief Negotiator, David Frost. The meeting took place ahead of five weeks of intensive negotiations designed to put momentum back into efforts to reach a deal on the future UK/EU relationship.
The latest version of the FishSAFE unit, the essential safety information tool for fishermen working near offshore oil and gas infrastructure in the UK Continental Shelf, is now available.
As the Fisheries Bill passes through the House of Lords, amendments have been laid down that would make CCTV cameras aboard all fishing vessels mandatory. The NFFO provides its view.
One of the benefits of leaving the Common Fisheries Policy will be the potential to rethink and redesign the landing obligation. Initially the industry will continue to work under EU retained law, but after 1st January there will be scope to redesign and implement new arrangements tailored to the conditions in UK fisheries. Both Defra and the NFFO have begun work to identify deficiencies in the EU landing obligation and how these could be addressed to inform a more effective and workable UK discard policy. The contents of this paper were discussed at a recent Defra/MMO/NFFO landing obligation forum.
Government Panel Eyes No Fishing Zones Despite Existing World-Beating UK Marine Protected Area Network
The government-sponsored Benyon Review, and its all-out advocacy for banning fishing in a new set of areas referred to as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), comes as a hammer blow for fishing communities having to cope with the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainties of the Brexit negotiations. This is despite Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) already comprising 40% of the total area of English waters, with a swathe of 41 sites being designated only last year.