UK to restrict fishing in its waters
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.”
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