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EU Will Have No Right of Access to UK Waters

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), said: “If there is no Fisheries Agreement in place by the end of this year, the EU fleet will have no right of access to UK waters and vice versa.

“Remember, however, that EU vessels land 10 times more fish from UK waters than UK vessels do from theirs, and for some species, e.g. saithe, the imbalance is significantly greater (260 times).

“On 1st January 2021, the present transitional phase will be over, and under international law the UK will become an independent coastal state with the right to control access to its waters. The EU is seeking an extension by a year of the current arrangements under the Common Fisheries Policy, which is laughable and would be totally unacceptable to the Scottish fishing industry.

“Were the UK to accede to this in its first act as an independent coastal state, it would be a travesty.

“It is also disingenuous of the EU to contend that there would be no certainty on fishing. While there would be no Fisheries Agreement, the two sides could sit down as equal independent coastal states and within a matter of days resolve the issues of access, quota shares and conditions for the year ahead. And the UK would set the terms that would apply to any EU vessels fishing in our waters.

“Ultimately, it is up to the EU which of the two routes it wishes to take towards the UK becoming a coastal state – through a stable framework agreement that respects UK sovereignty and follows similar arrangements that the EU has with other coastal states in the north-east Atlantic, or via a less structured route for the EU where everything is done through annual negotiations with no framework agreement in place.”

EAPO Calls for Balanced Approach

In preparation of the December Fisheries Council EAPO (European Association of fish Producers Organisations) has sent a position paper with relevant recommendations for about 44 stocks to the Council Members, and the European Commission. The paper also contains specific suggestions on the Brexit contingency plan and considerations on the COVID-19 crisis. Like last year, constructive reflections are included on the scientific advices, the Common Fisheries Policy, and the management objectives.

Specific attention is given to mixed fisheries and the difficulty in combining the Maximum Sustainable Yield objective with the Landing Obligation. EAPO makes recommendations of elements allowing to set TACs and quotas at levels that enable fishing activities to achieve economic, social and employment benefits, and to contribute to the food supply, whilst also taking into account long term environmental sustainability.

Pim Visser, President of EAPO, says: “This year has been a complicated one for EU fisheries. In the absence of TAC proposal from the Commission for a number of stocks, we base our comments on the scientific advices. We specifically address the management of stocks for which the advice is far from positive. Fishing opportunities need to be set in relation with the true developments of stocks and balanced solutions have to be found when there are persistent problems.”

The very special setting of the December Agrifish Council this year creates huge uncertainties for the EU fish producers. The Brexit situation should not prevent fishing to continue on the first of January 2021 and with the December Council Position Paper EAPO aims to contribute positively with input to the Ministers, so that they have all the necessary data to agree the Council Regulation for fishing opportunities in 2021.