Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

As Brexit trade talks proceed, Scottish fishing leaders say they will maintain pressure on ministers to secure the industry’s top priority of control over access to UK waters. Any maintenance of the status quo, they say, is untenable.

They will continue to urge the government to stick to its plan to make decisions on who gets to catch what, where and when around UK shores from 2021 and beyond, they say.

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), said: “The UK government’s position is clear and concise: that under international law, we will become an independent coastal state with control over our waters and that access to those waters will be granted through annual international negotiations between sovereign equals.

“Outside the Common Fisheries Policy, which is where we will be, this is perfectly normal. It is what other major fishing nations such as Norway and Iceland do.

“Similarly, those nations do not trade away access to their waters in exchange for access to EU markets for their seafood produce. The UK government has recognised this in its negotiating mandate and we fully intend to hold them to that.”

Ms Macdonald added: “The EU is insisting that the status quo should prevail, whereby the UK catches only less than 40% of the available quota stocks in our waters.

“That, of course, is untenable. UK ministers and negotiators need to stick to their guns and deliver the Sea of Opportunity that will so patently benefit our coastal communities.”

Similarly, Shetland Fishermen’s Association has urged UK negotiators to “stand firm” when talks over the future relationship between the UK and EU start later today. 

Referring to the EU’s insistence that its fishing fleets should enjoy the same rights in UK waters after December 2020 as they have had under the Common Fisheries Policy, SFA executive officer Simon Collins said:

“Our European colleagues do not appear to have grasped the fact that we are no longer part of the EU, and we are no longer prepared to be subservient to the European Commission.

“The UK is legally a sovereign state once again. Sovereign states strike trade and other deals with each other in their mutual interests. They do not – or should not – claim rights to plunder another country’s natural resources.  

“The idea that the EU should continue to occupy British waters as it pleases makes a mockery of our new position under international law.”

Mr Collins added: “Our negotiators need to stand firm in the face of such arrogance and deliver what they have promised – a coastal state with control over the fish in UK waters and the right to manage stocks in a proper, sustainable fashion.

“That way, we can revitalise our hard-pressed coastal and island communities through jobs and investment.”