Tuesday, 22 December 2020

We do not exchange fishing resources for market access

Norway is a third party when it comes to Brexit. We are still affected, also on the fishing side. The comment "Replaces the fish, gets exports again" addresses a complex issue about Norway's fisheries cooperation with other countries, in addition to questions about market access to the EU.

December 22, 2020 By Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen / Minister of Fisheries and Seafood 

The comment contains a number of errors and confusions that I want to clear up.

Norway has been working for a long time to bring Norway, the EU and the UK to the negotiating table, so that we can agree on fisheries agreements. Some of the fish stocks in the North Sea migrate between the waters of the three parties, and we must therefore agree on quotas and management measures.

Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen (Right). Photo: Bent-Are Jensen Norway is a third party when it comes to Brexit. We are still affected, also on the fishing side. As a result, negotiations on the fisheries agreements for 2021 have not yet begun properly, and the EU has not seen it possible to participate in talks with Norway and the United Kingdom.

This is unfortunate. This means that at the end of the year we are in an unusual and unpredictable situation.

We currently have overall agreements on fisheries cooperation with both the EU and the UK. The agreements allow for zone access and quota exchange to be agreed annually. This means that Norway must enter into agreements with the countries we want to fish with every year. As of today, Norway has not entered into such agreements with either the EU or the United Kingdom. Until agreements are entered into, Norwegian vessels will not be allowed to fish in British or EU waters, nor will British and EU vessels be able to enter Norwegian areas to fish.

This is not a threat or demonstration of power to the EU or Britain, as the Nation writes. This is a consequence of the fact that we have not agreed on the conditions for releasing vessels flying the flags of other countries into our areas.

In 1977, Norway established a fisheries protection zone off Svalbard to ensure the conservation and sound management of fishery resources and to prevent unregulated fishing. Norway has since given states that fished in the area the opportunity to continue their fishing, since we have all in all benefited from it, but we are not obliged to follow such a practice.

Norwegian sovereignty has of course not been part of the negotiations with the United Kingdom on a new framework agreement on fisheries cooperation, as the Nation has also written.

With the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU, the player picture in the fisheries changes.

We have therefore decided to adjust down the fishing opportunities provided in the fish protection zone. The adjustments have been made on the basis of the development of the law of the sea, at the same time as the need to avoid excessive changes for the fishing fleet is taken into account. In 2021, the EU will therefore be given a cod quota in the fisheries protection zone of 17,885 tonnes and the United Kingdom 5,500 tonnes.

The Coast Guard controls both Norwegian and foreign vessels fishing in Norwegian areas. The Coast Guard is naturally prepared for the fact that we may find ourselves in a situation where foreign vessels without a license may wish to enter the Norwegian zone. That said, it is nevertheless unusual for vessels to intentionally enter a foreign zone without a license. Should this nevertheless occur, it will be enforced in accordance with the normal procedure. However, it is not true that Norway cooperates with other nations on enforcement in Norwegian areas, as debate leader Hans Bårdsgård claims.

It is not our policy to exchange fishing resources for market access. Nor do we do so in the negotiations for a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

In relation to the EU, we have common regulations in the veterinary area through the EEA agreement, which ensures free and stable market access for seafood without restrictions. We do not take part in the EU's common fisheries policy, and thus do not have duty-free market access to the EU for seafood.

Full story from Fiskerridablet, Norway.

Back home in the UK, The NFFO published an '11th Hour' newsletter.

The NFFO reiterates what is at stake as negotiations with the EU reach the inevitable endgame As the negotiations with the EU enter the 11th hour, rumours are swirling around in the media about what each side has offered and counter offered, as the two side seek a trade deal and an acceptable compromise on fishing rights. 

Many of these rumours have been wildly inaccurate during earlier phases in the negotiations, and so we will wait for the definitive briefing from the UK negotiators, or the Prime Minister, before making comment. In these fraught and uncertain times, though, it is worth reiterating what is at stake. 

The UK fishing industry (and the UK government) have been clear that as the UK leaves the EU and the transition phase, what we seek is an outcome consistent with our new status as an independent coastal state: 

  • Negotiated, not automatic, rights over access to fish in UK waters Annual fisheries agreements which set TACs, agree quota shares, access arrangements and where mutually beneficial, quota exchanges 
  • An exclusive 12-mile limit to protect our inshore fisheries 
  • A rebalancing of quota shares to reflect the resources in UK waters 
  • Frictionless, access to market to the extent that this without surrendering sovereign fishing rights 

These rights are only those which any self-respecting coastal state which shares stocks with a neighbouring country enjoys. It is only the distorting effect of the Common Fisheries Policy over the last 40 years that means the gulf that has now to be crossed is so wide. Those objectives have been shared by the Government throughout the negotiations and the extent to which they are reflected in a final deal (and the assurances given) will be the measure against which the deal will be judged.