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Commercial Fishing



Higher quotas for small fishing boats after Brexit. The Guardian newspaper reports that fishing rights should be redrawn to give a higher quota to smaller vessels after Brexit, the Labour party is to propose in an amendment to the government’s fisheries bill.

The changes would allow small boats to spend more days at sea and land more catch than they do at present, though catches would still be subject to negotiation with the EU on common fishing grounds.

Small fishermen – who make up the bulk of the UK’s fleet in terms of jobs and vessels – are squeezed, receiving a smaller quota and constrained by rules on the number of days they can fish and what species they may catch, which can force them to discard edible fish at sea.

The government holds the power to reallocate quotas under EU rules, but has declined to do so, partly because of the difficulties of negotiating with companies that have bought rights from others.

Fishing, employs 11,000 people in the UK and was a major issue during the EU referendum, fishermen’s leaders strongly backing Brexit as a means of regaining control over UK waters. The second reading of the government’s fisheries bill is scheduled for Wednesday and promises to restore fishing in UK waters to sustainable levels, under which fishermen are only allowed to take what the stocks can withstand, and end the wasteful practice of discarding.

However,  the UK’s scope to control its own waters will be limited, even after leaving the EU, due to the fact that many of the main fishing grounds – such as the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the Channel – are shared. That will mean that ongoing international negotiations with the EU member states, Iceland and Norway, are inevitable.

Most importantly, any deal with the EU regarding shared fishing grounds will have to include the issue of access to markets for the UK’s catch. With most of the UK’s catch for key species finding its main markets in the EU and fresh fish needing to be transported to market quickly, additional tariffs or delays at customs, would be disastrous for fishermen.