The Government will reclaim its waters for British fishermen by pulling out of a deal that pre-dates the EU, it has been announced.
The move, to be triggered today, will let the UK regain control of waters up to 12 miles from its coast in a major boost to British fishermen.
EU countries currently catch an estimated 10,000 tonnes of fish in those waters every year. Any access after Brexit will form part of negotiations.
Britain will formally leave the London Fisheries Convention exactly two years from tomorrow.
The agreement is separate from the EU Common Fisheries Policy, which controls access to British waters between 12 and 200 miles from the coast and will be discussed during negotiations.
Ministers say the move will help take back control of fishing access to UK waters, as it will no longer be bound by existing access agreements, and enable the country to become fully responsible for fisheries management.
Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, called the move “an historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union”.
He 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.”
Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, 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.”
Will McCallum, Greenpeace UK head of oceans, has warned that pulling out of the London Convention would not alone deliver a better future for the UK fishing industry.
“For years, successive UK governments have blamed Brussels for their own failure to support the small-scale, sustainable fishers who are the backbone of our fishing fleet,” he said.
“If Brexit is to herald a better future for our fishers, the new Environment Secretary Michael Gove must keep the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto commitment to re-balance fishing quotas in favour of ‘small-scale, specific locally-based fishing communities’.”
Environmental law firm ClientEarth consultant Dr Tom West said the move appeared to be an aggressive negotiating tactic.
“As a country outside the EU we need to consider how we can best co-operate with our neighbours rather than unilaterally withdrawing from all agreements in the hope that standing alone will make us better.
“Many fish stocks in UK waters are shared with our neighbours and so need co-operation and shared management.”
He also warned of the need to put in place strong laws to protect marine wildlife, or there was a risk the UK would row back on hard-won environmental protection over the last 40 years.
By Ben Riley-Smith and Laura Hughes
Source: The Telegraph
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