Has the Brexit fishing promise come true?

Mackerel On A Trawler With A Fisherman.Getty Images

Even although fishing is a tiny a part of the UK economic system, it was a key difficulty within the Brexit marketing campaign with guarantees to “take back control” of British waters.

At the tip of 2020, Boris Johnson introduced his new Brexit commerce settlement with the EU, promising that “[we will] be able to catch and eat quite prodigious quantities of extra fish”.

What are the brand new fishing rules?

The UK-EU fishing rules, which got here into pressure in the beginning of 2021, imply:

  • New quotas for about 100 fish species caught in UK waters
  • UK boats get larger share of about 60 of those
  • 25% of EU’s total share transferred to UK between 2021-2026
  • EU boats get entry to UK waters till 2026

There was give and take as a result of UK boats nonetheless wanted to promote their fish to EU markets.

The UK now negotiates yearly with non-EU fishing nations resembling Norway and the Faroe Islands. Before Brexit, it was coated by the EU’s negotiations with them.

Is the UK catching extra fish?

Government figures present the quantity of fish UK boats caught and landed within the UK (and at ports in Europe) has been rising:

  • 2019 – 622,000 tonnes
  • 2020 – 623,000 tonnes
  • 2021 – 652,000 tonnes

Mark Spencer, the fisheries minister informed MPs in December 2022: “We are 30,000 tonnes better off now that we are outside the EU”.

Dr Bryce Stewart, a fisheries biologist from the University of York, believes the federal government has overstated the long term affect.

He says many of the profit got here in 2021, as a result of 15% of the EU’s quota was transferred then, with a lot smaller transfers to return as much as 2026.

He additionally factors out: “Quotas are not always fished to their full extent. Fish are unpredictable, they might not always be where you think they are, the weather might be too bad to fish and markets might not be available.”

Winners and losers

In 2019, the highest UK port for the quantity of fish landed was Peterhead in north-east Scotland, with 132,000 tonnes, adopted by Lerwick, on the Shetland Islands, with 28,000 tonnes.

They accounted for greater than 1 / 4 of all landings by UK boats.

A Map Of The Uk Showing The Top 20 Uk Ports By The Amount Of Fish, In Tonnes, Landed In 2019, With Ports Of Peterhead And Lerwick Being The Biggest.

In 2021, Peterhead and Lerwick acquired greater than 83% of the additional catch – 25,000 of these 30,000 additional tonnes.

Ports in north-east England – Hull, Grimsby and Bridlington – in addition to within the south-west – Plymouth and Newlyn – all noticed decreases on their 2019 catches.

A Map Of The Uk Showing The Top 20 Uk Port By The Amount Of Fish, In Tonnes, Landed In 2019, With Ports Of Peterhead And Lerwick Still Being The Biggest And Increasing On The 2019 Volumes

Why did some areas do higher and a few worse?

Dr Stewart says the brand new quota system is skewed in the direction of a small variety of species, benefiting these locations the place they’re fished.

“The gains to the UK in terms of tonnage and value are highly concentrated. Western mackerel, which is fished off the north coast of the UK and landed in places like Peterhead, accounts for about 30% of the change in overall value.”

The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA) represents 22 boats which fish for mackerel and herring within the north-east Atlantic.

“If you asked me if our fishermen would prefer to be back in the EU, the answer would be a huge ‘absolutely not’,” stated chairman Ian Gatt.

‘I needed to make 72 fishermen jobless’

It’s a distinct story for Jane Sandell of UK Fisheries, a foreign-owned firm primarily based in Hull.

Its trawlers fish in Norwegian waters within the North Atlantic and 95% of their catch is cod which matches to UK fish and chip retailers.

Ms Sandell says earlier than Brexit (when the UK share of the fish in Norwegian waters was decided by EU-Norway negotiations), the corporate would catch about 15,000 tonnes of cod a 12 months and employed 106 crew, most from the north-east of England.

Jane Sandell, Ceo Of Uk Fisheries, In Front Of The Last Vessel In The Company'S Fleet

In 2022, their catch halved. She blames the fishing deal the UK negotiated with Norway in 2021.

Announcing it, the federal government stated UK boats would “gain access to 30,000 tonnes of white fish” in 2022 – the restrict for cod was set at 7,000 tonnes a 12 months.

Ms Sandell says: “From the middle of 2021 to the end of 2022, I had to make 72 fisherman jobless. That’s the worst bit, because it’s people’s livelihoods.”

Gary Taylor, a former authorities fisheries negotiator, says: “The position – when the UK was part of the EU – was that we were very much a net beneficiary of the deal with Norway.

“We gained important quantities of Arctic cod. That was drastically decreased below the present [UK-Norway] deal.”

‘No change’ in Cornwall

One of the main requests from the fishing industry in Cornwall was to exclude French and other EU boats from the zone between six and 12 miles off the Cornish coast.

The Brexit deal did not do this – which was “extraordinarily painful”, according to Chris Ranford from the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation which represents about 170 vessels fishing for over 40 different species of fish.

“Our boats are sometimes affected by the climate and the ocean circumstances. They are usually not in a position to go to the ocean at sure instances of the 12 months as a result of they do not have engine capability or the scale of the boat to take action. During these instances, we get lots of overseas vessels working as much as the six mile line.”

He’s also sceptical about the post-Brexit increase in fish quotas.

Cornish Trawler Outside Falmouth

Getty Images

“Us within the south-west of England, fishing comparatively near the shore, have not seen wherever near as a lot as a 25% enhance. We are very minimal numbers.”

In Devon, Juliette Hatchman of South Western Fish Producers highlighted post-Brexit trade.

Although the trade deal avoided tariffs (taxes) on UK seafood exports to the EU, she says there are still problems:

“The sheer value of all the extra export paperwork is kind of eyewatering. Whilst the additional prices have partially been absorbed into the promoting costs to some EU prospects, this has clearly resulted within the lack of some long-standing smaller EU (specifically French) prospects.”

Reporting by Tamara Kovacevic, graphics by Erwin Rivault

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