After a ten-month passage through Parliament and thew House of Lords, the UK’s Fisheries Bill this week received royal assent, making it the Fisheries Act 2020. – the first piece of primary UK fisheries legislation for almost forty years.
According to Defra, under the Fisheries Act, the UK government and the devolved administrations will publish a legally binding joint fisheries statement and develop fisheries management plans and achieve sustainability goals.
UK boats can continue to access any part of UK waters, as they do now, whether they are registered in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, while EU vessels’ automatic access right to fish in UK waters is rescinded and these will required to be licensed to fish in UK waters.
‘This is a huge moment for the UK fishing industry. This is the first domestic fisheries legislation in nearly 40 years, and we will now take back control of our waters out to 200 nautical miles or the median line. The Fisheries Act makes clear our intention to continue to operate on the world stage as a leading, responsible, independent coastal state. We will protect our precious marine environment, whilst ensuring a fairer share of fishing opportunities for UK fishermen,’ commented Environment Secretary George Eustice.
The Fisheries Act come with some big promises, pledging to manage fisheries in a sustainable manner that balances social, economic, and social benefits while preventing the over exploitation of fish stocks, while also seeking to ensure increased benefits from fish caught by UK vessels, protecting sensitive marine species, and implementing a modernised grant scheme to enable funding of a greater variety of areas.
‘The passage of the Fisheries Act 2020 into law is a landmark event. The new legislation has successfully avoided the pitfalls of the Common Fisheries Policy,’ said NFFO chief executive Barrie Deas.
‘It provides a balanced framework for a much more agile, flexible system of sustainable fisheries management in the future, consistent with the UK’s new status as an independent coastal State.’
According to Defra, the Fisheries Act allows the government to fund a wider range of fisheries projects, for instance to encourage the uptake of new technologies at sea, improve port infrastructure, and support recreational sea angling, plus equipping the devolved administrations with greater fisheries management powers.
Defra also states that the Act recognises that many fisheries resources are shared stocks and negotiation with other countries is crucial in managing these, as sustainable catches cannot be achieved through UK action alone.