UK to win back waters?

EU memo reveals existing fishing quotas will remain after Brexit

The Guardian

UK fishermen may not win 'waters back' after Brexit, EU memo reveals

The hopes of British fishermen that the UK can win its "waters back" post-Brexit are expected to be dashed by the European parliament, despite the campaign promises of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, a leaked EU document reveals.

MEPs have drafted seven provisions to be included in Britain's "exit agreement", including the stipulation that there will be "no increase to the UK's share of fishing opportunities for jointly fished stocks (maintaining the existing quota distribution in UK and EU waters)".

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What is the EU's Common Fisheries Policy?

When politicians talk about "winning back our waters", they are more concerned about what is contained in them: fish.

Members of the European Union share a Common Fisheries Policy, where a set tonnage of specific fish - known as the Total Allowance Catch (TAC) - can be caught within EU waters and then divided between each member state.

The TAC is largely based on how much each member state fished in those areas in the 1970s, before the policy came into effect.

Splitting up the stocks is designed to keep the levels of fishing in these areas "relatively stable", and it has been found to be helping the UK's fisheries. According to Open Democracy, as fish populations decrease and produce fewer offspring, there must be an effort to reduce fishing pressure to rebuild stock, leading to larger harvests in the future.

In an analysis of the 118 years of industrial fishing in the UK, the vast majority of the fish numbers decline happened prior to the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy.

However, it is estimated that 29 of the 33 most important commercial fish species are overfished. The EU's quota system, TAC, is a viable way to stock recovery.

Although the UK wants to take back control, EU member states already have it by being allowed to place limits on who can fish in their territorial waters.

The UK is still dominant in fishing, compared to other EU members. In 2004, it had the fourth largest catch at 652,000 tonnes. In 2014, the UK became the second largest catch with 752,000 tonnes.

Winning back the waters does not necessarily mean you will win back the fish. As the Conversation observes, fish do not "respect political boundaries". Many of the commercial species are not 'British' as mackerel, herring and cod are highly mobile and move easily across borders.

Mackerel is more of a tourist to the UK, making extensive migrations and only passing through our waters for short periods of time.

The Common Fisheries Policy is a much-maligned policy, used by Leave campaigners during the referendum as a sign of the over-bearing nature of the EU. As a member, the UK catches one of the highest tonnes of fish and benefits from the stock recovery.

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Politics Home

Owen Paterson: How we can reset our fisheries policy - and empower local communities

As shadow Agriculture Minister I travelled all around the British Isles between 2003-2005, and saw tragically damaged fishing communities and degraded marine environments. I also visited Norway, the Faroes, Iceland, Newfoundland, the east coast of the United States and the Falklands; here I saw improving marine environments and prosperous fishing communities.

I stated then that the Common Fisheries Policy is a biological, environmental, economic and social disaster; it is beyond reform. I wrote a Green Paper pulling together all the best ideas that I had learned from successful fishing countries.

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