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Commercial Fishing


Trade is the key to unlocking the best deal

Trade is the key to unlocking the best deal, says UK Fisheries

UK Fisheries, which runs the UK’s distant water freezer trawler, Kirkella, has said that being outside of the EU means there is a “smart deal waiting to be struck” for all sectors of the industry.

The company said: “Kirkella, the pride of the UK’s distant-waters fleet, is approaching the end of a successful trip. Now fishing in the stormy waters off Svalbard, she is expected back home in Hull towards the end of March, her freezers full of the delicious Arctic cod that will be served as part of our national dish in chippies up and down the country.

“Fishing has always been a lifestyle steeped in risk and uncertainty. But whatever the perils of working round the clock in icy seas a week’s steaming from home, the biggest challenge by far to Kirkella remains the failure by the UK government to maintain or enhance the rights of British fishermen to catch fish for the British market.

“Right now, we have literally no idea when Kirkella’s next trip will be. As a British company we cannot fish without a licence issued by the UK’s Single Issuing Authority, which itself is dependent on quotas negotiated by Defra. While we were grateful to be issued with a licence for our current Svalbard trip, this represents just a small fraction of what we need to run a viable business in 2021 and beyond.

“Talks are underway with Norway that we desperately hope will provide the fishing opportunities we really need, but progress is slow and we have no licences beyond this trip. We can’t plan for anything beyond March, and neither can our crews or their families.

“Take a look at our distant-waters fishing scorecard. It tells two stories: one is the sad tale of the government’s failure thus far to deliver access deals that are at least as good as we enjoyed prior to Brexit and its fabled ‘Sea of Opportunity’.

“But there is a more optimistic narrative, one from which the government’s battered reputation on fisheries could greatly benefit. For every below-par mark on the scorecard, there is a ‘B’ or an ‘A’ within reach. You see, we know that our coastal partners are ready to talk. The Norwegians, for example, are heavily dependent on access to British waters and British markets. There is a smart deal waiting to be struck.

“Having directly linked trade and access in its Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, there is no possible reason for HMG not to use its full bargaining power with Norway, freed of the redundant dogma that trade talks and access talks are somehow separate processes.

“And importantly, in landing a Norwegian deal our negotiators would set a precedent for deals with our other independent coastal partners such as the Faroes and Greenland (and, why not, Iceland). Not only that, they would show their faith in the potential for all of the British industry to survive, invest and grow.

“Because this is not just about UK Fisheries. Skilled negotiations (and we have every faith in our negotiators, as long as they have a sensible mandate from the policymakers) could deliver a really bright future for fishers in all four UK nations, spread between large and small operators and all types of ownership.

“Whatever is holding talks up, the government now needs to adopt a smart approach and quickly deliver an ambitious deal for British fishermen. UK Fisheries has tens of millions of pounds to invest in the future of distant-waters fishing in the North-East, but this can’t and won’t wait for much longer.”