The deal between the EU and the UK on fisheries falls very far short of the commitments and promises that were made to the industry by those at the highest level of government, according to Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Elspeth Macdonald.
‘It does not restore sovereign UK control over fisheries, and does not permit us to determine who can catch what, where and when in our own waters. From 1st January 2021, the EU fleet has full access to the UK EEZ for what is essentially six years, as fisheries are managed on an annual basis,’ she said, commenting that while there is reciprocal access for the UK fleet to community waters, this is an uneven balance.
‘They are far more reliant on our waters than we are on theirs. EU vessels fish six times more in UK waters than we fish in theirs. The adjustments to UK shares of fish are modest at best, and in some cases will leave us with some very real practical fisheries management problems. A fundamental error was made by the government not securing sufficient quota uplift in some key stocks to take account of international swaps, which will no longer be possible in the same way. Anyone involved in fisheries would know this gap had to be bridged for vessels in the whitefish fleet.’
Elspeth Macdonald commented that the SFF expects government to come forward with solutions to the problem it has created.
‘The UK is not receiving a 25% uplift in quotas, but instead will gain 25% of the value of what was the EU’s share in 2019. This does not equate to a 25% uplift in quota. Significantly, by the end of the adjustment period this will fall very far short of the government’s stated aim of achieving zonal attachment,’ she said.
‘The annual consultations between the EU and UK will be meaningless during the adjustment phase, as the TAC fallback provisions in the deal mean the EU can still fish in UK waters for up to six months, even without TACS being agreed. By granting full access, the UK has no negotiating capital left with which to increase shares of the fish in our own waters.’
She questions how, once the six year period ends, the government envisages the UK claiming a fairer share of the catches in its own waters without triggering punishment clauses in the deal.
‘Although we are glad to be out of the CFP, our battle to secure better arrangements for our fishermen is far from over,’ Elspeth Macdonald said.
‘We are now a coastal state with one hand tied behind our back and the industry’s task in the months and years ahead is to right the wrongs of this deal.’