Cornwall’s fishing industry has always played an important part in our local economy and it has been great to have the opportunity as Fisheries Minister to try and secure a better future for our industry.
Last week, I launched the Fisheries bill, a bill that will see the UK regain its sovereignty, reinvigorate our coastal communities and enhance the protection of our marine environment. There has long been an historic injustice in the UK’s relationship with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) with quota allocations, and in recent times tensions have boiled over. However, the Fisheries bill addresses these longstanding grievances and puts the industry and environment first.
I have always been clear, that the UK will continue to be a world leader in promoting sustainable fisheries regardless of our relationship with the EU. 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. That is why this bill is so important because it sets out what our future relationship will be whilst still maintaining the highest possible standards for our marine life.
As a sovereign country, we will control access to our own waters by ending current automatic rights for EU vessels to fish in UK waters. In future, access to fish in UK waters will be a matter for the UK to negotiate. The new legislation will also preserve UK vessels’ right to fish across the four zones of UK waters and create a consistent approach to managing any access for foreign vessels provided for in international agreements.
The bill proposes new powers that will allow the UK to set its own fishing quota and days at sea which will be negotiated as an independent coastal state, in consultation with the Devolved Administrations. Learning the lessons from the CFP, government will have the ability to amend highly technical legislation and respond to scientific advice and innovation quickly. New schemes will also be introduced to help English fishing fleets seize the opportunities of Brexit such as a scheme to help the fishing industry comply with the landing obligation and creating powers to tender additional English quota.
Finally, we will protect our marine environment by ensuring that management decisions are taken strategically for the benefit of the whole marine environment protecting our seas for generations to come.
As ever fisheries policy is as much about international relations as it is anything else and always has been. After we leave the EU, there will still be annual discussions and agreements. The difference is that when we leave the EU we will be an independent state and we will conduct those negotiations on our own behalf rather than having to abide by what the European Commission decides.
We do not yet know the outcome of the UK’s negotiations to withdraw from the EU or on a future economic partnership, but we have been clear that market access for fisheries products is separate to the quotation of fishing opportunities and access to waters. However, we are delivering a bill that sets us on the path to building a sustainable fishing industry, with healthy seas and a fair deal for UK fishermen.