Much of the UK fishing industry remains angry and frustrated at the gulf between what as promised in the December 2020 Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and what has actually been delivered.
‘What was delivered in terms of additional fishing opportunities and control over access was very far from what any self-respecting coastal state might expect,’ an NFFO representative commented.
All the same, the NFFO remains certain that ‘escaping the dead clutches of the overcentralised and cumbersome Common Fisheries Policy’ is regarded by many as a major positive – ‘although a huge amount of work remains to be done to realise the benefit of this new framework, especially through the development and implementation of fisheries management plans, it is a huge opportunity.’
The NFFO states that against this background, it is disappointing that the promised agility of the new framework to deliver effective and timely outcomes has been thwarted by the UK’s own legislative systems.
‘It’s just downright embarrassing that, for the second year, increases in catch limits for bass agreed with the EU within the context of the annual fisheries negotiations, will be implemented by the EU from 1st of January – but those same increases will not be available to UK fishermen until much later in the year. This is because of the UK’s own domestic legislative hurdles that have to be cleared,’ the NFFO states.
‘A similar situation applies in relation to spurdog. Following revised scientific advice, spurdog is to be removed from the prohibited species list and a substantial TAC for 2023 and 2024 has been set jointly by the UK and EU. Yet, legislative obstacles mean that access to these quotas for UK fishermen will not be available until May at the earliest. Legal and constitutional processes again undermine the ability to implement a responsive and agile fisheries policy in the UK.’
The NFFO argues that there are solutions to this, as much of the unwarranted delay arises from the fact that the legal route to deliver these management systems is through a statutory instrument.
‘These parliamentary hoops require an inappropriate level of parliamentary involvement when the decisions, after all, have already been taken within the context of bilateral fisheries negotiations. In any event, these are mainly technical adjustments that don’t need a high level of parliamentary scrutiny,’ the organisation’s representative commented.
‘Streamlining the UK’s own route to implement decisions made within the context of bilateral (or trilateral) fisheries negotiations should now become a political priority, but ironically, the main delay in shifting the approval process from statutory instrument to licence condition is in finding sufficient parliamentary time. The Government’s ambition to “sunset” all existing EU law by the end of 2023 is likely to constrain available parliamentary time even further.’
The NFFO’s position is that the implementation of policy and management decisions through licence conditions could be achieved within 24 hours where necessary – rather than the five months which the statutory instrument route takes.
‘This is a no-brainer and should be a priority for the Government, which cannot enjoy the tag of overseeing a process even slower than the cumbersome CFP that it replaced,’ the NFFO states.