This section covers the management of fisheries, including the setting and share of fishing opportunities and access to fishing waters. Trade in fish and fish products is considered within the agricultural products section.

The fisheries sector is made up of marine fishing, aquaculture (fish farming) and processing, and involves complex supply chains. The importance of the fishing sector extends beyond its economic contribution; it is of totemic cultural, historic and social importance to the UK.

From 2020, the UK will take part in international negotiations as a fully independent coastal state and equal partner for the first time in more than 40 years. At the end of the implementation period, the UK will no longer abide by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The UK has an opportunity to introduce a new fisheries policy that ensures that the way fisheries are managed is sustainable, responsive and resilient. Under international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the UK will have control of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (out to 200 nautical miles or the median line with other States’ waters).

The key objective for the UK is to ensure a sustainable and profitable fisheries sector, and a clean, healthy and productive marine environment. Once outside the CFP the UK wants to establish a mechanism to agree with the EU access to each other’s fishing waters and improving the UK’s share of fishing opportunities.

The UK proposes a new model in which the UK and EU can agree:

  1. improving the UK’s share of fishing opportunities, by ensuring the parties develop a fair and scientific methodology for their allocation;
  2. access to each other’s fishing waters, with appropriate control and enforcement measures in place for both sides; and
  3. working collaboratively to ensure sustainable practices that protect and promote the marine environment and the shared resources within it.

Negotiations on the allocation of fishing opportunities

The CFP determines the level and manner of activity in the fishing sector between Member States. Access to the majority of fish stocks is managed through the setting of total allowable catches (TACs) and the sharing of quota between Member States.

Within UK waters, there are large and diverse fish stocks of considerable value to the EU and a new fisheries agreement will be needed to cover these. ln the North Atlantic, the EU has bilateral agreements with Norway and the Faroe lslands on access and fishing opportunities, which are negotiated annually. while the EU’s current agreements are useful precedents, given the large number of stocks concerned, we consider a bespoke approach will be needed.

lt is in the EU’s interest to secure such an agreement with the UK. The UK’s proposed mechanism to agree the total share of stocks and access will be through annual bilateral negotiations with the EU and annual trilateral negotiations with Norway and the EU, and the Faroe lslands and the EU for the relevant stocks. Negotiations will be done in collaboration with the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern lreland Executive, recognising that some stocks are concentrated in areas managed by the devolved administrations.

The UK will continue to remain committed to participating in the international council for the Exploration of the sea (lcES), as a member, and to providing scientific and technical advice into their annual stock assessment. This assessment will be drawn on by both the UK and the EU to support the negotiations on TACs and shares of fishing opportunities.

The UK will prepare an annual statement on its assessment of the state of stocks of interest to the UK and the UK’s approach to setting fishing rates and other management measures for the year ahead. lf particular stocks are falling below safe biological limits, the UK Government will work with all interested parties to draw up and implement recovery plans to ensure they are restored to a healthy condition.

Access to waters

Access to fisheries in the waters around the UK is highly sought after by EU fishing vessels. Between 2013 and 2015, EU vessels caught an annual average of 749,000 tonnes (€575 million revenue) in UK waters.2o8 By contrast, in 2016 UK vessels caught 79,000 tonnes (£96 million revenue) in EU Member States’ waters.

UK and EU vessels will want to continue to have access to each others’ waters. The UK is seeking to agree access to fishing waters with the EU, including under certain circumstances within the six to 12 miles zone. The UK will seek to maintain current bilateral agreements with Member States in whose territorial waters the UK has an interest, such as the Voisinage Agreement with lreland. ln negotiating new arrangements with the EU, the UK will give particular attention to enabling cross border co-operation on inshore fisheries management between Northern lreland and lreland.

Any foreign vessels granted access to fish in UK waters will need to meet the same requirements as UK fleets across all UK fishing zones, including adherence to sustainable practices.

Sustainable fisheries management

As set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan, which covers England only, an ecosystem approach to fisheries will deliver more sustainable management. This involves restoring and maintaining the healthy fish stocks and marine environment necessary for a prosperous fishing industry.

The UK is committed to championing and ensuring sustainable fisheries, including by preventing wasteful discarding. Recent reforms in the Common Fisheries Policy, led by the UK, have helped limit this with the Landing Obligation (known as the discard ban). When the UK leaves the CFP there will be opportunities to introduce a complementary package of measures that are tailored to work effectively in UK waters; such as remote electronic monitoring to ensure compliance at sea and adaptive management measures to promote selective fishing gear. Further detail on the areas for consideration to deter fishermen from catching fish out of quota and discarding them will be set out in the Fisheries White Paper.

The UK will also take its seat as an independent member of Regional Fisheries Management organisations (RFMOs), where we will pursue our interests in negotiations on important stocks such as North-East Atlantic mackerel. The UK will also play an active role in other international bodies, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

To support this bespoke arrangement, the UK will seek agreements on enforcement and sharing of scientific expertise and data on stock assessment to ensure that both the UK and EU can fulfil international obligations to manage stocks sustainably and effectively and minimise impacts on non-commercial species and the wider marine environment.