FISHING has now moved centre stage, said the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), which has given a cautious welcome to the EU-UK withdrawal agreement.
The organisation, which represents English, Welsh and Northern Irish fishermen, described the agreement, approved by the EU in Brussels on Sunday, as ‘an important first step towards a new future for the UK as an independent coastal state’.
But important further challenges lay ahead, said the NFFO, to secure access and quota arrangements consistent with the new status.
The main difference was that European organisations will no longer be setting the rules after the transition period – those will be determined by the UK.
‘It would be hard to overestimate the seismic significance of this shift,’ said the NFFO. ‘The agreement binds the parties to work cooperatively to ensure that fishing remains within sustainable levels.
‘It concedes, however, that under international law, the UK will negotiate as an independent coastal state, with the rights and responsibilities of that new status under UN Law of the Sea.’
The NFFO said Norway, which maintains its own fishing policy, probably pointed the way to future arrangements.
‘Shared stocks are managed jointly with the EU and other countries through annual reciprocal fisheries agreements.
‘These annual agreements set the overall level of total allowable catches on the basis of scientific advice.
‘They also agree access arrangements and quota shares (based on an objective assessment of the fish resources by species in each respective zone.) Quotas are exchanged annually on a reciprocal basis.’
However, unlike many other Norwegian goods, Norwegian fisheries products did not have unfettered access to the European single market and were subject to various tariffs.
It concludes: ‘To deliver the fair share of fishing opportunities that they rightly see as theirs, British fishermen, in this second round, will expect our negotiators to be as tough, astute, and hard-nosed as they need to be to realise the benefits of our new status as an independent coastal state.’