One of the most important economic arguments put forward by pro-Brexit campaigners has been “taking back control” of the UK’s fishing waters. However, concerns have been raised among the remaining EU member states over the impact it could have on access to other nations, as well as the environmental impact.
Currently, EU waters are “pooled” for fishing. This means that boats from one member state can effectively fish freely other seas. But, when the UK leaves the EU, these arrangements would most likely be stopped. Therefore, going forward, these waters would belong the UK exclusively again, as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
In addition to this, a further, separate international agreement, the London Fisheries Convention, would be terminated. This agreement covers the 12 miles closest to short. When this agreement stops, foreign ships will no longer be permitted to enter the UK’s water without its permission.
One of the fears among skippers is that their fishing rights would, in the future, be “traded away”. For instance, when Greenland left the EU, it traded access to its waters for other funding. Some of the quotas were kept exclusive, and others sold off. The draft agreement appears to have ruled it out, but it doesn’t mean foreign boats would automatically be banned from the UK’s seas.
The idea that the UK should only allow its own boats to fish in its exclusive economic zone hasn’t been advocated by the industry. They have, however, suggested that the UK should be allowed to control who is allowed in, and who isn’t. They have also pointed out that cross-border cooperation is needed in order to avoid fishing disputes in the future.
In terms of environmental issues, the current EU quotas are based on advice from scientific bodies. At the moment, scientists will set quotas based on how much of each species can be caught sustainably. This is then negotiated between member states to decide how to divide the stock available. If the UK conducts its own research, this could cause further disputes.
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