At the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021 the UK will cease to be part of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The UK will become an independent coastal state and will be fully responsible for managing fisheries in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 miles. This will include setting total allowable catches (TACs), distributing quotas and determining who has access to fisheries. The UK published its draft fisheries framework agreement on 19th May 2020.
The Fisheries Bill
The Fisheries Bill will enable the UK to control who may fish in our waters, and on what terms, for the first time since 1973. It will help to protect our marine resources and develop plans to restore our fish stock back to more sustainable levels. This builds on a manifesto commitment which promised to introduce a legal commitment to fish sustainably as we become an independent coastal state once again.
This Bill will deliver on the Government’s commitment to sustainable fishing and conservation of the marine environment. It will end the automatic right for EU vessels to fish in UK waters, making fishing access a matter for us to negotiate and set terms, so any foreign vessels will have to follow our rules. It will allow us to set our own fishing quota and days at sea, negotiating independently in consultation with the Devolved Administrations. It will also enable us to protect the marine environment by ensuring fisheries management decisions are taken strategically for its benefit.
Accompanying these new powers, the Government has opened applications for £15.4 million worth of funding for English fishermen from two UK fishing funds. The £14.7 million share of a £37.2 million UK-wide fund announced last December, will encourage the take up of innovation and technology, supporting jobs in coastal communities. In addition, £700,000 from a £2 million UK-wide fund announced in the 2018 Budget is ring-fenced for fishing safety improvements on board English vessels and around ports and harbours.
The Fisheries Bill is currently progressing through Parliament and you can follow its progress here: https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/fisheries.html
Sustainable Fishing & Supertrawlers
Our waters are a precious natural resource and they must be managed carefully. The future of the communities that earn their livelihoods from the sea and the biodiversity of the ocean depends on a balanced and considered approach to fisheries management. The UK is a global leader in the fight to protect our seas with our ‘Blue Belt’ of protected waters nearly twice the size of England.
The Government takes seriously its obligation to protect Marine Protected Areas under the Marine and Coastal Act 2009. As part of the Brexit process we have been re-establishing conservation control on the 200 European Marine Sites within our territory.
Overall the UK has 357 Marine Protected Areas covering a quarter of the country’s waters, but the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy currently restricts our ability to impose more stringent protections on our seas. After the end of the end of the transition period the UK will be able to introduce stronger measures so that we can manage our waters as we see fit.
Government is currently considering an independent report by the ‘Benyon review’ on whether to introduce Highly Protected Marine Areas in English waters. Highly Protected Marine Areas would permit certain activities within their boundaries such as vessel transit, scuba diving and kayaking. Any activities that could have a damaging effect on habitats or wildlife, including fishing, construction and dredging would be banned. Supertrawlers will be considered as part of this.
The Government has also committed to a £500 million Blue Planet fund to export UK expertise in marine science around the world, supporting overseas countries to protect marine habitats.