As I write this article, I am in Brussels about to enter the final stages of the annual EU negotiations on fisheries quotas. This is the fourth year I have led the UK negotiating team at the December fisheries council and each has had its challenges. It is too early to tell how things will end up but all the indicators are that it will be a late night on Tuesday because there remain quite a few areas where we have differences with the European Commission.
Two years ago I pushed very hard to get emergency measures to try to protect Bass which is in a precarious state. We secured a major breakthrough at the time with new limits introduced, although when the EU built on the package of measures last year, there was some criticism that they got the balance wrong and allowed too much for some commercial fishermen and not enough for recreational anglers. This year I am pushing for a more balanced package of measures that continues to increase protection for the stock.
On the commercial fleet, our aim is to ensure we fish sustainably but make best use of the available science and also that we take account of some of the complexities of making quotas work where different species of fish are caught together. Of particular relevance to Cornwall are species like monkfish and pollock where the scientific indicators are positive but where the European Commission often argues for arbitrary automatic cuts because there are some gaps in the evidence available.
Secondly, for many years now there has been a challenge around the Cornish coast in terms of setting quotas for cod, haddock and whiting because all three swim together and are caught together. We are arguing for scientific analysis to take account of the mixed fishery to be considered.
This year's negotiations take place against the backdrop of our decision to leave the EU, which will allow the UK to take responsibility for its own waters. There will still be cooperation and annual negotiations but we will regain our seat at the table. It will be easier to deliver change where change is required. There will be an opportunity to move towards fairer shares for some fish species off the Cornish coast. We will be able to set the ground rules for countries that seek access to our waters to ensure that we deliver sustainable fisheries.