Fisheries warn of Brexit threat

prawns seafood bycatch

The blind are leading the blind over fisheries after Brexit, it was claimed last week, while Scotland’s traders in shellfish and other live seafood are facing an existential threat.

A fudge over the treatment of fisheries in the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU appears to have left nobody happy.

Alistair Sinclair, national coordinator for the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, said he was not reassured by messages from leading Conservatives such as Scottish Secretary David Mundell. “We are still in a state of alarm,” he said.

Mr Sinclair said the entire industry faced potential collapse over any increase in barriers to trade and movement of goods, due to the need for products such as shellfish, crabs, shrimp and lobster to be delivered to customers in continental Europe swiftly and alive.

“We have not seen anything that convinces us there is a future for our industry after Brexit,” he said. “This is a low impact, high value industry and a part of the tapestry of rural Scotland. But it is hard to escape the sense that he blind are leading the blind, here.”

Meanwhile the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said tough decisions had been put off until another day but its members would continue to reject any suggestion that access to EU markets could be dependent upon agreement that EU fishing fleets can continue operating in British waters.

The Federation is continuing to seek clarity over the draft withdrawal agreement’s proposal that EU members can apply tariffs on fish while a separate deal is negotiated to allow EU boats to fish in British waters.

Brexit and Fisheries

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “The industry’s priority has always been taking back control of decision-making over who catches what, where and when in our waters, so that we can end once and for all the grossly unfair situation where 60% of our stocks are taken, gratis, by boats from other EU nations.

“Any linkage between access and trade contravenes all international norms and practice and is simply unacceptable in principle.

“Therefore we have asked the Prime Minister for assurances that the establishment of a new fisheries agreement as laid out in the Brexit arrangements does not imply that EU vessels will be guaranteed continued access to our waters in return for favourable trade terms.”

Meanwhile sources suggest France is already set to seek changes to the limited statements about fishing in the agreement, with the potential support of Denmark, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands.

Earlier this week Scotland’s Conservative MPs said they could not support an agreement which would prevent the UK from independently negotiating access to its fisheries, but yesterday Mr Mundell insisted the agreement meets the demands of MPs and will deliver for the fishing industry.

However Sheryll Murray, the south east Cornwall MP who wrote to call for a no confidence vote in the prime minister yesterday said in her letter that fishermen faced a “continuance of the crumbs they have received under the Common Fisheries Policy for a further 21 months and moving to a position where we leave the CFP in name only”.

This article was originally posted as Fisheries warn of existential threat to industry if plans are not changed at The Herald on 15/11/18.

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