Brexit: EU and UK ‘a long way apart’ on fisheries says expert
The EU’s 27 fisheries ministers agreed this week on fishing opportunities for 2021 for the stocks managed by the bloc. They agreed on catch numbers for commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic, the North Sea, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea above sustainable limits.
Ministers also agreed provisional quotas for those stocks shared with the UK – a 25 percent roll-over of the existing 2020 fishing opportunities.
The provisional shared stocks with the UK and other third countries such as Norway will apply from January 1st to 31 March 2021.
In the event of no agreement, the EU will set definitive unilateral numbers for 2021.
But, the EU attempted to reform the Common Fisheries Policy in 2013 to try and make fishing more sustainable, committing all member states to end the practice of overfishing by 2015.
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A final deadline of 2020 was included as the latest to achieve this goal, but this has since been missed by the EU.
EU ministers have now been accused of risking fish supplies by putting the interests of fishermen ahead of sustainability by not agreeing on sustainable targets.
In a statement after the talks, EU Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Openly, I regret that the ministers were not ready to fully take into account the scientific advice and agree on more ambitious effort reductions that would have allowed us to restore the fish stocks to sustainable levels and to ensure the long term the socio-economic viability of the fishermen and women operating in the region.
“The scientific advice was very clear on the extremely poor state of the demersal stocks and on what measures are required: 19 stocks out of 22 remain dramatically overfished.”
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He said the EU fleet was already facing uncertainty with the ongoing talks with the UK, adding: “The stakes of the negotiations were very high, as we needed to address all three sustainability pillars – environmental, social and economic.
“The EU’s fleet has suffered from the COVID-19 crisis and is facing uncertainty due to still ongoing EU-UK negotiations.
“With urgent support measures in last spring, we have been able to bring a slight relief.
“But today we also needed to give our fishermen and women a perspective beyond 2021.”
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Reacting to the news, Vera Coelho, Oceana in Europe Senior Director of Advocacy said: “Fisheries ministers are clearly disregarding the objectives and legal obligations of the EU fisheries policy, which requires all fish stocks to be harvested sustainably.
“Despite all stated Green Deal ambitions, short-termism continues to drive decisions against the backdrop of an environmental emergency.”
Campaigner Rebecca Hubbard from NGO Our Fish described the EU’s decision as “shameful.”
She added: “Whilst EU leaders are running around signing pledges, waxing lyrical about revolutionising our relationship with nature and taking climate action, EU fisheries ministers have signed off on another year of overfishing.”
Very significant difficulties remain in the Brexit trade deal talks between the EU and UK, particularly in relation to fisheries.
Lord Frost and Michel Barnier are continuing negotiations in Brussels today in the hope of securing a trade deal.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wouldn’t agree to a deal which doesn’t respect UK sovereignty, especially on fishing.
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