Wednesday, 23 January 2019

How Brexit risks upsetting European fisheries - from a French perspective.

The netter Harvest Reaper entering Newlyn through the gaps having fished on grounds shared with many French fishing vessels.

From an article in Le Monde:

Access to fishing grounds, stock management, the consequences of Brexit on the European fishing sector, and in particular French, are worrying.

This is an essential but still little known part of the Brexit negotiations, which is due to enter into force on 30 March 2019. For the United Kingdom, which is the largest island in the European Union (EU), the question of Maritime sovereignty is unavoidable; the subject was besides a totem of the campaign of the partisans of Brexit.

Five months before the deadline, London firmly affirms its desire to resume, at that date, control of its waters, the largest in the Union and among the most fish. This announced divorce worries the European fishing industry, and in particular the French sector, one of the most exposed, with that of Denmark. Certain regions - the Hauts-de-France, Brittany and Normandy - are particularly dependent on access to British waters. In total, 30% of the French fishermen's catch depends on it, a rate which rises to 50% for Brittany, the leading fishing region in France, to 75% for the Hauts-de-France, according to the National Committee for Marine Fisheries and Fisheries. marine farms (CNPMEM).

What is the fishing policy in the EU?
The European Union is the world's fifth largest producer of fisheries and aquaculture. It adopted a common fisheries policy (CFP) in the 1980s, like the common agricultural policy. It is one of the most integrated European policies. The CFP is based on the pooling of the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of European countries and the joint management of the fishery resource.

What is an Exclusive Economic Zone?
The EEZ is a maritime area over which a coastal State exercises sovereign rights in the exploration and use of resources. This space, which was defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of ​​1982 , extends up to 200 nautical miles (about 370 km) from the coast of the state; beyond that it is international waters. Within the EEZ, territorial waters represent an area of ​​up to 12 nautical miles in width (approximately 22 km) where the coastal State exercises sovereignty.

Equality of access. The CFP allows all European vessels access to the waters and fishing zones of the Member States, provided that they comply with the fishing quotas.

Preservation of resources and sustainable management. The EU has exclusive competence in the conservation of the living resources of the sea. The CFP, revised every ten years, strives to combine the sustainable exploitation of resources, the maintenance of marine biodiversity and decent income insurance for professionals in the sector.

As the Union has expanded, the CFP has undergone several reforms. The most recent took effect on 1 st January 2014 has strengthened the environmental requirements. The current policy is to set sustainable catch limits between 2015 and 2020 to maintain long-term fish stocks. These are then divided among the countries of the Union in the form of national quotas, applying a different percentage per stock and per country in order to guarantee a "relative stability" of the quantities fished, according to the number of vessels involved. They aim to perpetuate the stocks of a hundred fish species.

The threats that Brexit poses to the sector, which would weaken the CFP, include restrictions on access to certain fishing grounds, a new allocation of quotas, access to the seafood market and regulations that apply to all member countries.

What does the United Kingdom want and have done?
With the exit of the EU, the UK will leave the CFP and regain control of its entire exclusive economic zone, the vast seabelt that surrounds the country.

White Paper. In its White Paper on fishing published in early July, London plans eventually to unilaterally decide the access of its waters to European boats, highlighting "the interest of British fishermen" , who voted 92% in 2016 in Brexit in protest of the EU's fishing quotas, which are considered "obsolete" and "unfair" .

London would like to renegotiate the current quotas according to the location to which the resource is attached, particularly cod and haddock. According to an EU report published in January, between 2011 and 2015, European fishermen harvested an average of 760 000 tonnes per year of fish caught in British waters, when British fishermen caught only 90 000 tonnes in the UK. the waters of other European countries.

Currently, Britain exports about 75% of its catch to EU countries, 35% to 40% of which goes to France, its largest customer for € 500 million a year, with British catches being little consumed the domestic market. In its discussions with Brussels, the United Kingdom wants to separate the issue of access to its territorial waters from that of the quantities of British fish exported to the Union. In Brussels, European boats are expected to continue to be allowed free access to British waters if London wants to continue selling its products on the European market.

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The unilateral withdrawal of the London Convention. By unilaterally denouncing the London Convention on Fisheries on 2 July 2017, the United Kingdom sent an unequivocal signal on its willingness to regain full control of its maritime area. "With this withdrawal, the British show us that the negotiations will probably be complicated," said Alain Cadec, MEP and chairman of the fisheries committee of the European Parliament, during a round table on the subject in Lorient (Morbihan ), in November 2017.

Concluded in 1964, before the United Kingdom entered the EU in 1973, the London Convention is an international agreement on fishing rights in coastal waters. It authorises catches in an "area between six miles and twelve miles [11 km and 22 km] " off the coasts of the six signatories - France, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands - all members of the the EU. "Leaving the London Convention on Fisheries is an important moment (...). This means that for the first time in more than fifty years, we will be able to decide who can access our waters after 2020 and under what conditions ",said British Environment Minister Michael Gove, a supporter of a "green Brexit" that would respect resources.

The chief negotiator of the European Union on Brexit, Michel Barnier, had immediately put into perspective and judged that the British decision would have no impact, saying that the convention had become de facto obsolete with the CFP. However, some European fisheries law experts believe that once the EU exit, and hence the CFP, has been negotiated, the London Convention on Fisheries would have resumed service. Leaving this agreement, British fishermen themselves lose the right to work near the coasts of five other signatory countries.

A sector mobilized
Member States wish to defend their historic rights. A few months after the vote on the Brexit in June 2016, the European Fisheries Alliance (EUFA, European Fisheries Alliance) was launched in March 2017 in Brussels. It includes Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden, the nine most affected Member States, which derive one-third of their catches from within the EEZ surrounding the British Isles.

Chaired by the Dutchman Gerard van Balsfoort and representing 18,000 fishermen - 3,500 boats - and 21 billion euros in turnover, the EUFA calls for fishing to be a priority in the Brexit negotiations. It wants to continue joint management of shared stocks after Brexit, modeled on the current common fisheries policy.

Full story courtesy of Anne Guillard writing for Le Monde.