Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Brexit: where is the "fishing war" playing out?

Story courtesy of the FranceCulture website:


 Listen to Brexit again: where is the “fishing war” playing out?  
(If your French is good enough - listen 4 MIN)


Belgian beam trawler Marbi in Newlyn - her catch over-landed back to Belgium by lorry.

More than 50% of the catches of Belgian fishermen are made in British waters. Unloading of peaches in the port of Ostend on October 12. More than 50% of the catches of Belgian fishermen are made in British waters. 

Typically for a Belgian beam trawler, the Marbi fishes much of her time inside UK waters (VesselTracker AIS snapshot May1st-Jun1st 2020)


While an agreement on fishing with the United Kingdom has already been postponed twice, in recent days it has been France which has pinched the strongest: " Fisheries policy" , the Pdt of the Haut region predicted on Monday. of France Xavier Bertrand in the event of a “No Deal”; reflection of the French positions taken in recent days: from Minister Annick Girardin declaring that "Brexit, in France, will be the face of fishing" to Emmanuel Macron promising at the European Summit two weeks ago that fishermen will not be not the “Brexit sacrifices”.

Even if they say they are ready for a "no-deal", Europeans and French are worried about the damage to fleets - because 30% of French fishing is done in British waters - and to the coastal economy: in Boulogne sur Sea in particular, 65-70% of processed fish has passed through the UK.

As for the restrictions on freight, they would also affect businesses that could no longer supply themselves with fresh fish "J 1", warns the mayor of Boulogne and former MinPêche Frédéric Cuvillier: advice to foodies.

The European fishing front cracked?

Paris fears that fishing is the “adjustment variable” (known as Le Point ) of a concession at the last minute from the Commission; because since the summit on October 15, the British have made proposals on other issues and the European fisheries front is cracking:

After the unprecedented agreement with Norway (even though not a member of the EU), Belgium, which achieves 70-80% of its catches in British waters, would also like to obtain its exemption by reactivating a 17th century privilege, original act . More classic, some countries like the Netherlands, which are already big buyers of British fishing quotas, could do without an agreement by investing even more in British fleets.

However, without an agreement with London, Paris still remains in the EU and the 6 remaining fishing countries could well - by virtue of the European agreements - fall back voraciously on its waters full of fish.

Only 0.1% of the respective GDP: a major sticking point in the negotiations?

Fishing represents only 0.1% to 0.5% of GDP, it is true; but what counts economically in these negotiations is the North-East Atlantic where 2/3 of the French fishermen work and almost all the British.

In addition, the British fishermen who denounced the "injustice" of their situation did not do so without reasons, because the United Kingdom, which has some of the most fish-rich waters in the world (>40 species), attracts the whole of Europe and all the figures seem to show a real inequality: EU fishing is more than eight times more important in British waters than the other way around, British vessels only have 1.5% of the fishing quotas in their waters, 53% are held by the 3 largest European companies.

In recent months a fairly strong campaign has taken place in the press against the factory ships (including the huge Lithuanian-flagged Margiris ) that come into their waters, and held responsible for overfishing.

Could London negotiate its own quotas with each?

The fishermen are a problem but what must be understood is the almost indissoluble entanglement of the fishing industries, factories included, and there, the observed "inequality" is reversed: because more than 40% of European catches in UK waters are processed in the UK and ¾ of UK fishing industry exports go to the EU. In other words, what the British allow Europeans to fish, they transform and resell to them, such is the deal that binds them to Europe; and such is the one that they could perpetuate, even extend in the event of no agreement.

In other words, it is the British fishermen, whose numbers have been halved since 1983, who are already being sacrificed by the British fishing industry!

Could Brexit weigh on the European common fisheries policy?

The new fishing quotas for 2021 will be decided in December and the ten-year review of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is due to take place in 2023.

However, without an agreement with the United Kingdom, the increased competition in a lesser fishing area could shatter the CFP, warns the president of the National Fisheries Committee interviewed in La Croix : additional pressure ... Pince-mi et pincer -me are in a boat: pinch-mi and pinch-me fall into the water. Who is left? The CFP to reform?