Olivier Lepretre, president of the Nord Pas-de-Calais fisheries committee, hopes that the European Commission has heard the very clear message sent by the UK Brexit vote.
He is one of three Boulogne owners with newbuilds on the way from the Padmos yard, and is understandably nervous about the future prospects for access to the UK side of the Channel, commenting that if he had suspected which way the referendum might go, the new boat would not have been ordered.
‘There will have to be negotiations between the UK and the EU Commission,’ he said in an interview with Hook and Net, commenting that there is real concern that fishing will be sidelined as negotiations focus on other maritime sectors.
‘We have more interest in UK waters that the English fishermen have in ours and 80% of my fishing activity is on the UK side. If we lose those grounds, then French fishermen will be squeezed into a smaller area where there will be conflicts and increased fishing effort. Now we can fish up to the English six-mile limit, and we don’t know what will happen now – if we go back to what we had before 1983. This will have to be renegotiated. We’ll have to negotiate as Europe does with Iceland and Norway, with the UK as a third country and we will have to reach new agreements on shared stocks.’
‘For French, Dutch and Spanish fishing, this could be catastrophic,’ Olivier Lepretre said. ‘Spain stands to make the heaviest loss. I’m convinced that British fisherman will find themselves disadvantaged – and Britain seems to be keeping the disadvantages, such as the discard ban. We expect that the UK will lose its place on the Advisory Councils. They’ll be invited to attend, but British fishermen won’t have a voice. It’s not a great way to defend the rights of UK fishermen, and as a fisherman, that’s not what I want to see.’