Thursday, 14 December 2017

Fisheries Council

This week, I am writing from Brussels. I have been representing the UK in my role as Fisheries Minister, at the annual fisheries negotiation. This is my fifth year leading our negotiating team, and it is a particularly exciting time for our fishermen as we plan our exit from the European Union.

 If we want a future for our fishing industry then we need to fish sustainably. If we hammer vulnerable stocks today then there will be no fish and no fishermen tomorrow. It is not always easy for people to think about the long term when they are considering fishing opportunities for next year but we must. Some have urged me to forget the scientific advice and just argue against all cuts in quota but I will not ditch the science. 
However, we must ensure we are using the most up to date scientific evidence and also take account of the realities of the marine environment to ensure we do not end up with unintended consequences.

I have always been clear that on leaving the EU, the UK will continue to be a world leader in promoting sustainable fisheries and we will continue to cooperate with all our neighbours.   We will not allow a free for all and one of the conditions of any future access we grant will be that all vessels fish sustainably and within limits to protect our marine environment.
This year future changes have started to become clearer as we prepare to leave the EU. The UK Government has announced its intention to withdraw from the outdated London Fisheries Convention. The UK became a signatory to the London Convention in 1964, giving French, German, Dutch, Irish and Belgian vessels access to our 6-12 mile zone. As Fisheries Minister, I am pleased that we are taking this important step towards building our own domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy.
Here in Cornwall, leaving the EU creates opportunities for our fishermen. We will be able to re-establish national control for fisheries management out to 200 nautical miles or the median line as provided for in international law.  We will then negotiate new access and quota sharing arrangements that are fairer to our fishermen. 
There has long been an historical injustice in quota allocations to the UK fleet. We catch about 100,000 tonnes of fish in EU waters but other EU countries catch over 700,000 tonnes of fish in our waters.  Many local fishermen feel frustrated that they sometimes have to tie up their boats because they have run out of quota but they see French vessels continuing to fish in Cornish waters. Taking back control of our fishing grounds will give us the opportunity to revisit quota allocations and make things fairer.

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