UK government unveils new Fisheries Bill

25th October 2018

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Owen Jones

Environment secretary Michael Gove has today unveiled a new Fisheries Bill that will allow the UK to set its own fishing quotas for the first time since 1973 after it leaves the EU.

Gove said the legislation would create a “sustainable, profitable fishing industry” that is more environmentally friendly than the EU’s “damaging” Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

It will also end the automatic right for EU vessels to fish in UK waters, and give significant additional powers to devolved administrations.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said the changes would be worth an additional £540m per year to Britain’s seafood industry, and create 5,000 new jobs.

Moreover, the bill is designed to allow the UK to amend fisheries legislation in a way that responds quickly to scientific advice – something the CFP has been criticised for failing to do.

Gove said: “It will regenerate coastal communities, take back control of our waters and, through better conservation measures, allow our precious marine environment to thrive.

“The CFP has damaged the UK’s fishing industry and our precious fish stocks. The bill will deliver a sustainable fishing industry, with healthy seas and a fair deal for UK fishermen.”

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said the UK would be able to negotiate its own fishing quota and days at sea as an independent coastal state, with foreign vessels having to follow its rules.

A new scheme to help the fishing industry end the wasteful discarding of fish will also be introduced, with powers extended to the Marine Management Organisation to boost sustainable practices.

Although the outcome of Brexit negotiations remains unknown, Defra insisted that market access to fisheries products is separate to access to waters, and that the UK would be able to set its own rules accordingly.

The WWF described the bill as an “important step to deliver sustainable fisheries”, warning that inadequate regulation could threaten fish stocks, marine life, and livelihoods.

“We need our political leaders to keep the risks of overfishing in sight, ensure accountability in fisheries, and not only help stop, but reverse the damage to our marine wildlife,” the NGO’s head of marine policy, Dr Lyndsey Dodds, said.

Image credit: iStock


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