Fishing chief discusses ‘unworkable’ EU legislation
EU fisheries ministers held a meeting on Monday via video conference, with the deadline for an agreement on provisional quotas fast approaching at the end of next month. The ongoing agenda includes negotiations on the catch quotas for 2021, which proved an ongoing issue during the Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU. When London and Brussels finally announced a post-Brexit trade deal in December, a provisional deal was agreed under the German Presidency on the total catches and catch quotas for this year or the fish stocks jointly managed with the UK.
Following the trade deal between the two sides, the conditions are now in place to set the final quotas for 2021.
Specifically, it is around 70 stocks, with German fishermen interested in catching nearly half (28) of them.
But the provisional agreement on provisional quotas is only valid until the end of March, and time is running out to agree a deal for EU fishermen beyond that period.
Germany’s Secretary of State in the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture Beate Kasch wants a new agreement finalised immediately so fishermen “know how much fish they can get out of the sea from April”.
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She said: “We now need a quick agreement.
“It is about planning security and an orderly transition for our fishing families.
“They need to know how much fish they can get out of the sea from April.
“We should build on the good balance that we found with the preliminary quotas.
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“Sustainable management and fish stocks that regenerate well are important to us.
“At the same time, sustainability always includes the socio-economic question.
“Our fishermen must also be able to live from their catch.”
The minister added there is a similar assessment between the EU and UK for several fish stocks but at the same time, she claimed it is becoming increasingly apparent Britain is considering some extremely technical rules for its waters.
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This, in turn, has added to the complexity in the current negotiations, the minister claimed.
The State Secretary added: “For our fishermen, it is particularly about equal competitive conditions.”
During the frequently intense and often bitter Brexit negotiations, fisheries formed a central part of whether a trade deal could be agreed or not, with the UK and EU constantly at loggerheads over access to UK waters following the end of the transition period on December 31.
As part of the post-Brexit trade deal, both sides agreed that 25 percent of EU boats’ fishing rights in UK waters will be transferred to the UK fishing fleet by June 30, 2026.
EU fishing quotas in UK waters will be cut by 15 percent in the first year and 2.5 percentage points each year after, and it is estimated that by 2026, UK boats will have access to an extra £145m of fishing quota every year.
The UK fleet can expect quota increases for more than half (57) out of the 90 types of fish caught in its waters every year, but quota shares for some species like channel cod, of which EU boats catch more than 90 percent each year, will remain unchanged.
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Following the end of the adjustment period on June 30, 2026, annual talks will begin to determine the amount of fish EU fishing boats can catch in UK waters (and vice versa).
But the UK then has the power to completely withdraw EU boats’ access to its waters, although Brussels could retaliate by suspending access to its own waters for UK boats or impose costly tariffs on fish exports from the UK to the EU.
Speaking during a press conference from Downing Street on Christmas Eve, Mr Johnson said for the first time since 1973, the UK “will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters”.
He added Britain’s share of fish in its waters rising “substantially from roughly half today to closer to two-thirds in five-and-a-half years’ time”.
The Prime Minister admitted the UK had given ground to the EU on access to fishing waters, but insisted that as a result of the deal, the country will be able to “catch and eat quite prodigious quantities of extra fish”.
Announcing details around fishing, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told a press conference on Christmas Eve: “We have achieved reciprocal access to waters and to resources, and with the new distribution of fishing quotas and fishing opportunities which has been directly agreed, as is only natural, between the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Johnson, with taking account of Britain’s new status as an independent coastal state, that is a state which will no longer be part of the Common Fisheries Policy just a few days from now.
“This agreement will require efforts.
“I know the European Union will support its fishermen and women, will accompany them, and that is our commitment.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.