Sunday, 11 February 2018

The British dialogue on why fishing should not be subject to a transitional period.

As good a piece of writing on the subject of UK fishing rights with regard to the 'transition period' as I have read anywhere:

The possible approach of a transitory period in the fishing sector during the "brexit" has opened the box of thunder in the United Kingdom. The fishery organization NFFO has published a decalogue of reasons why fishing should not be "artificially" linked to a transition agreement with the EU on trade. The organization wants the fishing to be released, automatically, from the claws of the European 

Union and considers it a key point for the United Kingdom to conform as an independent state. NFFO does not want fishing to enter the transition period, even if it is part of a long-term commercial negotiation agreement. To do this, remember that the United Kingdom is already moving within the limits established by the UN Law of the Sea.

"Fisheries jurisdiction, access rights and quotas should be treated separately from trade agreements" and in this regard, it gives as an example to Norway that "it maintains access to the EU's single market under specific agreements agreed but manages the fisheries within its own EEZ and enters into annual agreements on shared management actions and exchange of quotas as an independent coastal state. "

If the United Kingdom accepts that fishing forms part of a transition period of 21 months under the terms specified by the EU (current access and quota status), it will be because again, as in 1973, it decided that "fishing is dispensable " and that other commercial matters have priority, despite their new legal status as an independent coastal state.

Once the principle of transition of "status quo" on shared quotas and access has been granted, it is obviously obvious that the EU "will use the same tactics and leverage when the United Kingdom tries to negotiate a long-term trade agreement with the EU. EU Fishing will once again be a sacrificial pawn, regardless of its legal status as an independent coastal state. "

It is clear that by the time the United Kingdom leaves the EU, that is, by March 2019, the ministers and officials of the United Kingdom will no longer take part in the decisions of any European institution, including those establishing quotas and other rules on fisheries. "It is an extreme understatement to say that it would be completely detrimental to the interests of the UK fishing industry to link ourselves to fisheries management decisions in which the UK is a legislator."

After the UK leaves the EU, the EU EEZ will account for less than 20% of the North Sea and around 50% of the western waters. Under those circumstances, why would the United Kingdom subject itself to intrusive control or restrictions on its ability to negotiate freely as an independent coastal state, either as part of a transition period or as a longer-term trade agreement?

As an independent coastal state, the UK is expected to take its place in international fisheries negotiations, including those with Norway, other coastal states and the EU. Even the European Commission recognizes that separate and personalized agreements will be required to include the EU in the decisions when establishing the TACs in the annual end-of-year negotiations. "There is no legal, or fisheries management, reason why the UK should accept any prior condition or artificial restriction on its right to negotiate the best possible agreement, including access agreements and quotas."

"As of autumn 2019, the United Kingdom will negotiate with those countries with which it shares stocks, annually, as an independent coastal state, without preconditions or artificial restrictions." The United Kingdom is limited by the United Nations Law of the Sea, to act responsibly and fairly towards those countries with which it shares actions.

Of course, it is understood that the 27 Member States have just outlined their list of petitions, in terms of a transition period and that the negotiations have not yet started. But what they are asking must be understood: despite the new status of the United Kingdom as an independent coastal state, it is the continuation of an asymmetric and exploitative agreement with the United Kingdom, which covers a large part of the population of the United Kingdom, as well as the fishing industry. It is extremely unfair and a distortion of a relationship that should bring reciprocal benefits. A 4: 1 ratio of the value of fish caught by EU fleets in UK waters compared to the value of fish caught by UK vessels in EU waters does not represent reciprocity, it is exploitation.

With regard to fisheries management, it is possible to advance smoothly and smoothly in a pattern of annual international agreements (bilateral or trilateral) with the countries with which we share stocks, to replace the decision-making processes of the CFP . That is what should happen and the transitional provisions should apply only to the commercial regime. There is only one reason why the EU will oppose such a pragmatic solution and that the EU benefits from current asymmetric agreements and tries to find ways to maintain them. If the United Kingdom really wants to move towards an independent coastal state, there is no advantage to postponing that decision.

The fisheries jurisdiction and fisheries negotiations were artificially and cynically linked in the CFP in 1973 with the systematic and lasting disadvantage for the United Kingdom. It is not strange that the EU 27 would like to continue this exploitation relationship because it works to a large extent in their favor. There is a unique opportunity to take a different and better path, and there is a great responsibility on the government not to drop the ball at this crucial point in history.

The Scots do not want transition either

The Scottish sector, through the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF), on the other hand, has celebrated the words of the British Secretary of Environment, Michael Gove, who this weekend in various English media has rejected the possibility that British fishing will benefit from a period of transition - as Brussels has proposed - after March 2019. SFF's executive director, Bertie Armstrong, indicated that "to become a coastal state from the first day in order to negotiate the best deal could make a real economic difference for our coastal communities. "" There is a sea of ​​opportunities that exists when leaving the PPC, but it can only work if we go out the first day, there is no other way, "he says.

Below, is the piece mentioned above from Dale Rodmell writing for the NFFO:

"Responsive decision-making with industry centrally involved in management is key to an effective post-Brexit fisheries regime", argues Dale Rodmell.

The UK's departure from the EU and therefore the Common Fisheries Policy, will mean that the UK will, from March 2019, operate as an independent coastal state. Although shared stocks will continue to be managed cooperatively, this change will provide a range of possibilities for a customised and tailored management regime for our fishing fleets. It makes sense to start thinking about what that will look like, now.

One of the reasons that the CFP took the fishing industry down so many blind alleys over 40 years, including encouraging large-scale discarding, has been its top-down, command and control, approach and cumbersome decision-making procedures.

As we move out of the era of the CFP and enter a new era as an independent coastal state, it will be important to learn the lessons of the CFP and to avoid the more obvious pitfalls.

Management Objectives

It is right to have high ambitions for our fisheries. We should aim for high long-term average yields of commercial species. That provides employment and economic benefits as well as high protein food on the table. We should also ensure adequate protection for vulnerable species and habitats.

In fact, there is rarely very much difference between the fishing industry and environmentalists on high level objectives. It is at the implementation level where the problems arise. The current CFP illustrates this, which at its core confuses objectives with instruments, and lacks coherence between quota-setting rules, the landing obligation, technical conservation rules and approaches to control and enforcement. It also refuses to recognise that there must be inevitable trade-offs between different objectives. The result is growing levels of dysfunctionality that with the arrival of the EU landing obligation and the associated problem of chokes, now threatens to tie fleets up early in the year. It all adds up to a serious mess.

In developing our own alternative approach to fisheries management, what are the principles that we should follow? Here are my thoughts:

A Responsive System

Fisheries management is prone to unintended consequences. We have certainly learnt that over recent decades. We should therefore in future ensure that we are able to change course quickly in order to adapt to dynamic circumstances or after it is recognised that we have taken a wrong turning. We should certainly not follow the CFP into an unwieldy decision-making system.

Parliament should set the broad principles and overall direction. It should not involve itself in technical areas in which it lacks expertise. A system which as far as possible avoids prescriptive micro-management and instead devolves technical decisions to the participants in each fishery has to be the ideal. The trade-off is that the participants must demonstrate that they are delivering the desired objective. This is called results-based management. This should be the guiding principle behind our future management systems.


The most successful fisheries management regimes, worldwide, have at their heart a close working relationship between fisheries managers and those working in each fishery. Trust and confidence follow when it is clear that managers and fishers are both pursuing the same objectives. Sharing information in a highly dynamic industry requires dialogue. We should be thinking now about how our institutions can take the best from the CFP and leave the worst behind. The advisory councils have been recognised as representing a huge step away from a top-down command and control model and we should now think about what advisory structures should be embedded within our own systems, post-Brexit.

Collective Accountability

Where possible we should aspire to go beyond dialogue and advice to delegate management responsibilities to the lowest practical level. Producer Organisations are widely recognised to provide a highly successful model of devolved collective responsibility in the areas of quota management and marketing. With their finger on the pulse at regional and port level, POs have a flexibility and local knowledge which governments could never achieve. The key is collective responsibility and accountability. We should look for opportunities to extend this decentralised model.

Incentives Should Support Management Objectives

Much can also be achieved by creating the right incentives for individual fishing businesses. A steady flow of data and information, reduction of unwanted bycatch or other environmental impacts, can all be shaped by creating the right form of incentive structures. Enabling compliance should be the primary objective of the fisheries regulator and in the long term this will be much more effective than an exclusive focus on catching out the unwary in a web of top-down complexity.

What Not To Do

I have tried above to sketch out what a modern, effective, dynamic, post-Brexit management regime might look like.

The ingredients for a fisheries management dystopia that have stymied the CFP are sadly being promoted by some environmental NGOs, including WWF, which should really know better. Blanket CCTV, recently advocated by the NGO, goes hand in hand with a top-down big-brother mentality that should really have no place in modern fisheries management. Various kinds of remote sensing will certainly have their place in fisheries management in the future – but only where it makes sense as part of a voluntary means for vessel operators to demonstrate its practices, as part of a system of incentives and audits.

We have seen in the CFP, that in the final analysis, top-down prescription doesn't work. Even with big-brother on board it will not work. What in my view will work, is clever management measures designed and implemented with the industry's involvement and cooperation, which follow the grain of fishery profitability, not run against it. The principles of good governance should be the standard against which we should measure our future fisheries management arrangements, because in the final analysis, good governance is effective governance.