UK to re­strict fish­ing in its wa­ters

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - Alex Mo­rales and Joost Akker­mans

THE BRI­TISH gov­ern­ment has found a new way to an­noy five close Euro­pean neigh­bours, and it has ev­ery­thing to do with fish: by pulling out of a half-cen­tury-old pact that gives them ac­cess to its wa­ters.

A year af­ter the UK voted to leave the EU, the rules of fish­ing were go­ing to change any­way, but the de­ci­sion to take this a step fur­ther and with­draw from 1964 Lon­don Fish­eries Convention is a strike to France, Bel­gium, Ger­many, Ire­land and the Nether­lands.

Ire­land found the move “un­wel­come and un­help­ful” as fish­er­men across the con­ti­nent re­sponded with alarm at a move that Bri­tain says is nec­es­sary to re­gain con­trol of all its wa­ters af­ter Brexit. But the step is seen as a provo­ca­tion by Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May at an early stage in the talks.

Brexit was go­ing to stop fish­ing by Euro­pean boats within 22km to 370km of Bri­tish shores, but this ter­mi­nates rights en­joyed by the five coun­tries to fish in wa­ters from 11km to 22km.

“It’s an alarm­ing sig­nal,” Claus Ubl, the spokesper­son for the Ger­man Fish­ery Association in Ham­burg, said yes­ter­day. “The risk is that Bri­tain will put up bar­ri­ers to fish­ing in its ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters, its exclusive eco­nomic zones af­ter Brexit.”

Push­ing hard

Ned­er­landse Vis­sers­bond, the Dutch in­dus­try group for pro­fes­sional fish­er­men, is “very con­cerned”, chair­per­son Jo­han Nooitgedagt told Dutch broad­caster NOS. “They are push­ing ahead hard and are not mod­er­at­ing their ap­proach.”

The UK’s no­ti­fi­ca­tion will set in train a two-year pull-out to be com­pleted in July 2019, three months af­ter the dead­line for Bri­tain’s with­drawal from the EU.

“The con­se­quences for Dutch fish­er­men are very lim­ited: we un­der­stand the sec­tor does not or barely fishes in this part of the Bri­tish wa­ters,” the Dutch Min­istry of Eco­nomic Af­fairs said. That is borne out in the fig­ures: the five na­tions hauled some 10 000 tons of fish worth an es­ti­mated £17 mil­lion (R289m) within 22km of the Bri­tish coast in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the UK gov­ern­ment. That com­pares with the to­tal value of the coun­try’s fish­ing in­dus­try of £775m in 2015. – Bloomberg

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