The UK government must confirm its commitment to leaving the Common Fisheries Policy and taking full responsibility for British waters on 29th March 2019, Scotland’s two largest fishing associations have warned.
The Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association (SWFPA) and the Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA), which together represent almost 300 vessels fishing in the North Sea and West of Scotland, today highlight mounting concern among their members about the terms of the government’s proposed implementation period for Brexit.
They warn that failure to move immediately to assert control of UK waters and manage fisheries as an independent Coastal State would be “extremely damaging” and “completely unacceptable”.
Mike Park, chief executive of the SWFPA, said: “An implementation period in which the UK had no voting rights in framing EU laws and regulations concerning its own fisheries would expose Scottish fishermen to serious harm. We depend on the outcomes of annual fisheries talks and international agreements for our very existence.
“It would be unthinkable to relegate our fishermen to the status of powerless bystanders in their own waters, unable to control or affect what happens in them. If the UK government is truly seeking to create stability for business as we exit the EU then it has to acknowledge the serious damage that can be caused to fishing as a result of a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Fishing is a unique industry that deserves bespoke treatment.”
SFA executive officer Simon Collins said: “It would be a nonsense for the UK to hand responsibility for its waters straight back to Brussels at the point of Brexit. It would not be an extension of the status quo – it would be far worse, as we would be powerless to prevent non-UK fleets hammering our fish stocks during the implementation period.
“We insist on full control over access to our waters and the management of our fisheries as an independent Coastal State from March 2019, when we withdraw from the EU and CFP. An implementation period may make sense for some business sectors, but fishing is emphatically not one of them.”
According to a YouGov poll commissioned by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation in January, 79% of voters believe that the UK should control access to its own waters, compared with 17% who think the country should continue to abide by EU rules.