NFFO responds to Irish Times article that asserts the UK position in future negotiations with EU is based on “myth-making and bluster”
The NFFO has responded to an article in the Irish Times that asserts the UK position in negotiations is based on “myth-making and bluster” as it seeks to reset its fisheries relationship with the EU.
The article which was published on Monday 16 November, claimed that the UK netted over £1bn in the last 10 years as a result of fishing rights negotiated by the EU and that that Britain was continuing “to promote a self-serving narrative around reclaiming its waters and doubling its fish catch after it had fully pulled up the Brexit drawbridge.
The article went on to say “Under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention and the Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement, coastal states have sovereignty over the living resources in their territorial waters while simultaneously having a duty to co-operate for the conservation of resources shared with neighbouring coastal states.
“The sea convention’s implementation agreement, in particular the aspect which deals with straddling fish and
highly migratory stocks, establishes duties for coastal states and states fishing on the high seas. It reiterates the duty of these states to co-operate for the conservation of living resources. Furthermore, it is important to remember that state parties must apply the precautionary approach – and the obligation of co-operation between coastal states and all other states whose fleets fish these stocks in the adjacent high seas area. The doubling of the catch by the UK government would be in contravention of both the sea convention and straddling stocks agreement. The UK is a signatory to both these documents.
“Why then is the UK making these impossible demands on fishing rights? Simply put, the issue has become totemic when it comes to Brexit. Neither side wants to give an inch on fisheries and it is probably the only negotiating space where Britain feels it has the upper hand. British fishermen have long complained that they have got a raw deal from the EU, ever since joining along with Ireland and Denmark back in 1973. This could not be further from the truth as a cool top-up worth €1 billion over 10 years attests. The time for debunking myths is nigh.” Irish Times – Brexit: Time to debunk myth of bad deal for British fishermen.
In reply to the article the NFFO writes “As negotiations between the UK and the EU reach a critical stage, Sean O’Donoghue makes the case for the status quo on fisheries on behalf of the European Fisheries Alliance.
“The UK is accused of myth-making and bluster as it seeks to reset its fisheries relationship with the EU.”
UN Law of the Sea
“It is true, as Sean says, that there are responsibilities, enshrined in UN law of the sea, that require coastal states to cooperate on the sustainable harvesting of shared fisheries resources. Alongside those responsibilities, however, are a number of important rights. The foremost of these is the right for coastal states to harvest the resources within their exclusive 200-mile economic zones, and the right to control access to those resources.
“This is the legal bedrock of the UK’s case for a new deal on fisheries. Quota shares and access arrangements should reflect the UK’s new legal status as an independent coastal state outside of the Common Fisheries Policy.”
“Three statistics illustrate vividly why UK fishermen consider that they were sold out by their own government in 1974 and again in the quota share out in 1983:
- Channel cod: UK share 9%; French share 84%
- Celtic Sea haddock: UK share 10%; French share 66%
- EU vessels take 5 times as much out of UK waters, in value terms, as UK fleets take out of EU waters”
“In short, for the 40 years over which the UK has been tethered to the Common Fisheries Policy, the EU fleets have had the lion’s share of the fish resources in UK waters. The legal conditions that underpinned that asymmetrical relationship are now falling away as the UK leaves the EU.
“The EU is playing hardball by making an artificial linkage between a trade deal and a deal on fisheries. That is a dangerous game of Russian roulette for all concerned. A compromise is available on fish – access for EU vessels to fish in UK waters in return for a move to quota shares which reflect the resources located in UK waters. In other words, the international norm, governed by UNCLOS on how two coastal states should relate to each other.
“Time will tell which side has been telling itself stories to keep up its courage. For our part, we see no sign that our Government is preparing to sell-out its fishers a second time.”