Brexit deal means drop in key fishing stocks

Brexit deal falls ‘far short of commitments and promises’ says Scottish Fishermen's Federation and Scottish Government analysis shows a drop in quota in 2021

Scottish Government analysis of the Brexit deal shows that Scottish fishermen will be able to land less fish than they can currently under the Common Fisheries Policy.

Cod and Saithe landings will be hit particularly hard but landings of fish such as mackerel and herring and some other stocks will see a modest gain.

A further kick in the teeth for Scottish fishing industry is that the Hague Preference, which gave Scottish boats extra quota each year, has also been lost under the Brexit deal. An entitlement that was used every year and this further loss of fishing quotas is valued at over £9 million.

The changes to quotas as part of the Brexit agreement are shown in the table below

stock Current situation (Average UK landing percentage of total EU and UK quota combined (using ref period 2015-19) Maximum percentage of total EU and UK quota available to UK under the deal Increased fishing opportunities
North Sea Cod 63.5 57 no
Rockall Cod 75 75 no
West of Scotland Cod 81.2 81.2 no
North Sea Haddock 92.5 84.2 no
Irish Sea Haddock 54.2 56 yes
West of Scotland Haddock 77.3 80.6 yes
Rockall Haddock 88.4 85 no
Celtic Sea Haddock 8.8 20 yes
West of Scotland Saithe 47.1 51 yes
North Sea Saithe 31.6 26 no
North Sea Whiting 82.7 73.5 no
West of Scotland Whiting 58.7 65.9 yes
North Sea Hake 55.6 53.6 no

Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, said

The analysis we are publishing today of what the UK withdrawal agreement means for Scotland’s fishing interests is deeply troubling. Carried out by our internationally renowned fisheries specialists, it shows how Scotland’s interests are adversely impacted by the deal reached by the UK and the EU.

Scottish coastal communities were told that any Brexit deal would mean a very large rise in fishing opportunities. In fact for the key stocks that the Scottish industry depends on, far from seeing a big increase, there will actually be a fall in the quantity of fish they can land.

We were assured that getting our own seat at the table as a coastal state in annual negotiations would result in gains for our fishing interests. Through this agreement, our ability to do that has been removed with the loss of leasing and swapping quota.

We were also told that a red line for the UK Government was that the fisheries deal would not be tied to the overall trade deal. In fact fisheries is hardwired into the overall deal meaning any attempt to reduce EU access in future will lead to trade sanctions – hitting key Scottish industries like salmon producers.

The Hague preference mechanism is another tool which we have now lost which helped increase available quota in key stocks in any given year – the UK Government did not even try to keep it available to us in the future.

And the quota either being given up by the EU or negotiated as a win by the UK Government is of no worth nor value to Scottish fishing interests.

This is a terrible outcome for Scotland’s coastal communities. The small gains in quota for mackerel and herring are far outweighed by the impact of losses of haddock, cod and saithe – and that threatens to harm on shore jobs and businesses too linked to harbours, fish markets and processing facilities. As our analysis shows, there is very little here to celebrate, and plenty to be worried about for the future of Scotland’s fishing interests.

What the Conservatives have said about fishing

David Duguid MP

Local MP David Duguid who has long been a supporter of the UK taking back control of its coastal waters only recently said

Scotland’s entire fishing industry has a bright future as we leave the unfair Common Fisheries Policy.

Also on My Turriff
Bright future for fishermen says David Duguid
Common Fisheries Policy Fact Check
Claims that the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has devastated the Scottish Fishing Industry are mostly false according to the Ferret Fact Service.

The claim that the Common Fisheries Policy has “devastated” the North-East fishing industry has some basis in narrow historical data relating to the size of the industry. While there has been a marked decrease in the number of boats and those employed on them, we must take into account broader changes such profitability, technological change and environmental factors. There is evidence to suggest the CFP has helped to support the sustainability of the Scottish fishing sector.

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said in parliament that he could not support a deal which would compromise fishing rights for Scottish fishermen.

Michael Gove spoke of the Sea Of Opportunity with David Duguid after meeting members of the fishing industry in 2019

All of the promised positive improvements for the Scottish Fishing Industry, the Independent Coastal State, a Sovereign Nation after leaving the Common Fisheries Policy, now appear to have been swept away in the Brexit agreement which is due to be voted on in Westminster on 30 December.

What the industry response to the Brexit Agreement is

John Clark a fishing vessel owner who has been a vociferous supporter of David Duguid in the past has now called on him to resign

Also on My Turriff
David Duguid MP welcomes passing of Fisheries Act
Also on My Turriff
UK and Norway sign historic fisheries agreement – the UK’s first in 40 years

Fishing For Leave, the official campaign of the fishing industry also believes that the industry is being sold out.

Mike Park, Chief Executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, said

Setting politics aside, the members of SWFPA are deeply aggrieved at the very challenging situation they now face for 2021.

Whereas we have gained modest uplifts in shares for some stocks the stark reality is that the demersal sector enter 2021 facing significant shortfalls across a range of key species, which is down to the fact that we can no longer enter into direct swaps with colleagues in Europe.

In addition, the issue of sovereignty and our future ability to negotiate additional shares after the five and a half year window would seem clouded by so much complexity that it is difficult at this time to see how the UK government can use its newly recovered sovereignty to improve the situation of my members.

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said

This deal falls very far short of the commitments and promises that were made to the fishing industry by those at the highest level of government.

It does not restore sovereign UK control over fisheries, and does not permit us to determine who can catch what, where and when in our own waters.

From 1st January 2021, the EU fleet has full access to the UK EEZ for what is essentially six years, as fisheries are managed on an annual basis.

Yes, the UK fleet has reciprocal access to EU waters, but they are far more reliant on our waters than we are on theirs – EU vessels fish six times more in UK waters than we fish in theirs.

The adjustments to UK shares of fish are modest at best, and in some cases will leave us with some very real practical fisheries management problems.

A fundamental error was made by the government not securing sufficient quota uplift in some key stocks to take account of international swaps, which will no longer be possible in the same way. Anyone involved in fisheries would know this gap had to be bridged for vessels in the whitefish fleet. We expect government to come forward with solutions to the problem they have created.

The UK is not receiving a 25% uplift in quotas, but instead will gain 25% of the value of what was the EU’s share in 2019. This does not equate to a 25% uplift in quota.

And significantly, by the end of the adjustment period this will fall very far short of the government’s stated aim of achieving zonal attachment.

The annual consultations between the EU and UK will be meaningless during the adjustment phase, as the TAC fallback provisions in the deal mean the EU can still fish in UK waters for up to six months, even without TACS being agreed.

By granting full access, the UK has no negotiating capital left with which to increase shares of the fish in our own waters.

At the end of the six years, how does the government envisage us claiming a fairer share of the catches in our own waters without triggering punishment clauses in the deal?

Although we are glad to be out of the CFP, our battle to secure better arrangements for our fishermen is far from over. We are now a coastal state with one hand tied behind our back and the industry’s task in the months and years ahead is to right the wrongs of this deal.

You can read the full Scottish Government analysis here.


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