Caution urged over North Sea plan

THE National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has warned that the post Brexit plan for the North Sea will not be all plain sailing for the industry.
It believes the plan will go forward. But the NFFO, which represents fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said: ‘We cannot but think, however, that there is a degree of wishful thinking, or ignoring the elephant in the room here.
‘The UK’s departure from the EU will mean that the UK will be responsible for managing the fisheries within the UK exclusive economic zone.
‘Consequently, the area of EU jurisdiction in the North Sea (and therefore the sea area covered by this plan) will be radically curtailed.
‘Even more significantly, the institutional arrangements for setting TACs for shared stocks will also change – probably in the North Sea to a trilateral arrangement involving Norway, EU and UK, as an independent coastal state.
‘The EU multi-annual plan will have no legal traction with Norway or the UK, and only as much political influence as the other parties will allow.’
The NFFO said that against this background there must be a high probability that the proposal will stall going through the co-decision process.
And if it does not stall, and is adopted, the capacity of Norway to block its influence when setting TACs for joint stocks suggests that the plan is already dead in the water in its central purpose.
‘We fully understand that until the UK leaves the EU it is bound by the rights and responsibilities of the EU and the CFP.
‘For instruments like the landings obligation, which the UK fisheries minister has suggested in large part will be absorbed into UK legislation, there is every reason for the UK to stay engaged in the development of the legislation.
‘However, the same does not apply with the multi-annual plan. In the post-Brexit TAC setting arrangements for shared stocks, the UK will have a stronger hand after it has left the EU, than as one of 28, and we cannot see the advantage in pretending that nothing is about to change in this respect.
‘Apart from anything else, the assumptions on which the stakeholder consultations and impact assessments, by which the plan is underpinned, will have altered radically, invalidating the results.
‘This in itself is sufficient to question the legality as well as the rationality of continuing as though nothing is about to happen.’