Taking back control of UK coastal waters as Iceland raises haddock quota

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 3 Jul 2017

TAKING back control... of British coastal waters at least! 

The Government has announced its withdrawal from the 1964 London Convention, removing the automatic right of non-UK fleets to fish within a zone six to 12 miles out from British shores.

It follows The Fisheries Bill inclusion in the Queen’s Speech, and together are described as “important developments that signal that the legal foundations are being laid for a post-Brexit fisheries regime in the UK’s exclusive economic zone,” by Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations.

The move will come in after the UK leaves the EU, and the Common Fisheries Policy.

Mr Deas, who was based in Grimsby for several years, said: “This is welcome news and an important part of establishing the UK as an independent coastal state with sovereignty over its own exclusive economic zone.

An exclusive 12 mile zone has been one of the industry’s red lines and this legal change is a precondition for its establishment. It should provide protection within which our inshore fisheries can thrive. It is by no means the only ingredient in the mix to provide a sustainable and profitable inshore fisheries but it lays an important foundation.”

Flotillas on the Humber and the Thames were memorable scenes from the referendum campaign last summer, and in the run-up to last month’s General Election Grimsby’s UKIP candidate Mike Hookem spoke passionately about a brighter future for day boats, with Grimsby likely to see an upturn.

When it comes to deep sea fishing, the likes of Peterhead are seen as the main benefactors due to the land-based infrastructure requirements that have been maintained as Britain’s biggest fishing port in the modern day.  

Mr Deas, pictured above, added: “Some have criticised the Government for aggressive negotiating tactics and for undermining co-operation in international fisheries management. This is misplaced. Withdrawing from the London Convention and the new powers that will be taken through the Fisheries Bill, will reflect the new legal order but joint management of shared stocks is both desirable and inevitable given the geo-political realities. 

“This will require close collaboration between the relevant countries. The difference will be that the UK will be at the negotiating table as an independent coastal state, rather than as one of a number of member states whipped into line by the Commission.”

The new Fisheries Bill is currently being drafted, and is anticipated early next year according to the NFFO. The organisation, now based in York, said it may be quite short, simply giving Parliamentary authority for the UK to set its own quotas, post-Brexit; along with the power to determine the access conditions for non-UK fleets to fish in UK waters. 

“Short the Bill may be, but these are important legal building blocks in the foundations of the new regime,” Mr Deas added.

The six to 12 mile zone sits alongside the EU Common Fisheries Policy which allows all European countries access between 12 and 200 nautical miles of the UK and sets quotas for how much fish nations can catch.

Latest figures show the UK fishing industry is made up of more than 6,000 vessels, landing 708,000 tonnes of fish worth £775 million (2015). Some 10,000 tonnes of fish was caught by other countries under the convention, worth an estimated £17 million.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Leaving the London Fisheries Convention is an important moment as we take back control of our fishing policy. It means for the first time in more than 50 years we will be able to decide who can access our waters.

“This is an historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union – one which leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the UK.”

It comes as Iceland revealed its quotas for the next fishing year, from September 1. The government has raised the quotas for Grimsby’s key species, with town favourite haddock seeing a huge uplift.

It should mean a further easing of supply into North East Lincolnshire – providing the North Atlantic nation’s fishermen don’t strike again – and the currency isn’t too much of a barrier.

Haddock catch will rise by more than 5,000 tonnes to 39,890 tonnes with confidence in a sustained recovery clear.

Cod will increase 11,000 tonnes to 255,172 tonnes.

Tens of thousands of boxes of the favoured white fish are sold in the town, with the fillets going to restaurants, retailers, take-aways and the famous fleet of mobile fishmongers.

Fisheries Minister Katrínar Gunnarsdóttir, who had a baptism of fire having taken the role mid-strike in January, said: “Overall, this is a good news that strongly suggests that fisheries management in Iceland has been responsible in recent years.

“We are also strengthening marine research, especially in view of potential changes in the ocean around Iceland due to climate change.”

Three quarters of the seafood sold on Grimsby Fish Market is imported from Iceland, with weekly sailings from Reykjavik to Grimsby and Immingham.

Supplies recovered well after the strike, which broke – fortunately – at the quietest time of the year for the UK’s favourite dish.

Trawlers were tied up from mid-December to mid-February, with a handful of jobs lost on the quayside as Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises adjusted to the market conditions.

While merchants rode out the shortage having been supplied for Christmas, and with extra fish sourced from Scotland, Norway, Ireland and The Faroes, it hit shipping firm Eimskip hard.

Last month, in its financial results, it revealed a £1.3 million cost, directly attributable to the strike.

Eimskip, headquartered in Reykjavik, has an operational base at Immingham. The vital sea link’s sustainability was questioned during the dispute, with respective ambassadors and government ministers briefed, and figures bearing out the seriousness of the situation.

Simon Dwyer, a leading figure with cluster organisation Seafood Grimsby & Humber, and secretariat for Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association, said: “This is positive news in terms of catching availability. Iceland has always had a strong track record in determining quota levels and managing stocks sustainably.

“This is an opportunity for the Grimsby seafood sector and our auction market – albeit the strength of the Icelandic Krona is presently impacting the trading of seafood to our region.

“There have been calls recently by the fishing sector in Iceland to devalue the Krona to support their competitiveness and the cost of buying fish for the like of the Grimsby fish merchants. If this happens together with the uplift in quotas then it can only be good news for the sector.”

Iceland famously chose control of fish quotas over joining the EU.

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