UK, EU agree fishing rights deal
Brussels and the UK have reached an agreement on fishing rights for species distributed between the waters of the two parties, a sign of progress in bilateral relations ahead of the broader Brexit talks next week.
The two sides announced the agreement on fishing rights on Wednesday evening after months of negotiations that have been repeatedly harassed by disputes over how to maximize access to fishing while respecting environmental goals.
The agreement sets catch limits for more than 70 different types of fish spread between EU and UK waters. The agreement mainly covers fishing rights for the remainder of 2021, with some catch limits for deep-sea species extending through 2022.
The negotiations were the first post-Brexit exercise for both sides in holding fisheries talks as two independent coastal powers. Brussels has held similar annual discussions with other neighbors, like Norway, for decades.
These talks normally take place before the start of the calendar year to give fishermen certainty as to the overall volumes of fish they can catch, but EU-UK negotiations have dragged on this year because both sides have no ‘reached a broader agreement on future relations than in the last days of 2020.
Since then, the fishermen have operated under interim arrangements, with mutual access to each other’s waters already guaranteed by the agreement on future relations.
Both parties are obligated by international law to negotiate on how to judiciously manage the fish species scattered between their waters.
EU officials said the deal was balanced, with Brussels succeeding in limiting UK efforts to shift catch quotas for haddock and other fish from the better-supplied North Sea to the waters off the west coast of Scotland – something Brussels feared would end up damaging fish stocks. Britain has provided additional flexibility for mackerel, a key priority.
Esben Sverdrup-Jensen, director general of the Danish Pelagic Producers Organization, said the deal was positive in the sense that it would hopefully unblock talks on other fishing issues between the EU and the United Kingdom.
But he said some of the terms of the deal were a further blow to its members after they had already suffered cuts under last year’s EU-UK deal.
“There are a lot of things in the works that need to be discussed and everything has been put on hold until these bilateral talks are settled,” he said. “But we are very unhappy that we were forced to drop even more quotas on top of last year’s Brexit deal as the UK pushed for quotas for sandeel and pout. Norwegian below scientific advice. ”
He estimated that the pout and sandeel quota deal would cost its members around 10,000 tonnes of fishing rights, noting that both stocks had been certified as sustainable.
Flashpoints over the months of talks included an attempt by the UK to ban all fishing in UK waters that are part of the Dogger Bank area of the North Sea, a move which the UK says , was logical for environmental reasons, but which would have massively affected EU vessels.
George Eustice, British Secretary for the Environment, admitted that the talks had been “difficult”.
“Our aim throughout these fisheries negotiations has been to preserve the sustainability of our fish stocks and to seek a deal that respects our new status and works for the UK fishing industry,” he said. declared.
Maximizing fishing rights for Scottish fishermen was a central UK goal in the talks.
Mairi Gougeon, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, said: ‘After months of uncertainty and disruption following Brexit, this deal will provide more clarity on the fisheries agreements for 2021.
“However, the fact remains that Scotland was withdrawn against our will from the European single market, which is seven times the size of the UK market, with all the economic disruption and damage that this entails.”
Elaine Whyte of the Clyde Fishermen’s Association, which represents fishing interests on Scotland’s west coast, said quota changes in Scottish waters resulting from the deal appeared likely to put the region at a disadvantage.
“We see almost all finfish stocks, except one, flexing from west to east to meet the needs of the larger fleets,” Whyte said. “This change is obviously of great concern to community fishermen on the West Coast. “
The agreement does not resolve the dispute between France and the UK over French fishing rights in the waters around Jersey. But EU officials have said they hope the outcome of the talks will encourage a further positive change in relations.
The British and French navies both sent ships to patrol the waters off Jersey last month after French complaints about conditions attached to fishing licenses turned to a stalemate.
EU Brexit Commissioner Maros Sefcovic is due to meet his UK counterpart David Frost next week for high-level Brexit meetings, where recent tensions over fisheries will be the order of the day.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU fisheries commissioner, said Wednesday’s deal was positive “for the sustainable use of our marine resources”.
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