nffo UK and France is on a collision course over the issuing of fishing licences to small boats from the EU to fish in its territorial waters

The NFFO has recently set out its position on the granting of UK fishing licences to EU-registered vessels

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has set out its position on the granting of fishing licences for EU-registered vessels operating in UK waters.

French fishers in the Hauts-de-France, Normandy and Brittany believe that the UK government is deliberately locking them out of traditional fishing grounds around the Crown dependencies of the Channel Islands.

Last week, French representatives met with Vice-President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic and the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Ocean and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius asking the Commission to put pressure on the UK to issue licences to all their vessels.

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The UK has said that under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) it will issue fishing licences in it’s 6-12nm zone to vessels that can prove history of fishing in this zone. This must be proven by either AIS history or logbook history, neither of which regulations applied to the small fishing craft that are currently being excluded.

French political leaders have reportedly threatened the UK with retaliation for the non-issue of these licences by cutting off the electricity supply to the islands and tempers have flared in the French parliament over the issue, but the NFFO believe that cool heads are needed under the circumstances.

The say that there has been a long and recognised cooperation between the UK and France in the English Channel, but now the UK was an independent coastal state withthe right to manage the fisheries in its EEZ.

Speaking after the ITECMER Conference held in Lorient they said, “The current area of dispute is over the criteria for granting licences to fish within the UK 6-12 zone.

“The TCA is in fact quite clear that licences will only be granted to vessels which can demonstrate a historic record of fishing there. And vessels should be replaced like-with-like to prevent a backdoor expansion of fishing activity in biologically sensitive areas.

“There is no mystery over why this is contentious.

“Sound fisheries management requires, as its very basis, that access to any given fishery must be limited. That requires hard administrative and political choices. Capping the UK domestic under-10m fleet over a decade ago generated a similar outcry over evidence and the impact on those whose fishing rights were reduced.

“The claims for licences, now like then, will involve a mix of legitimate borderline cases which hangs on the types of evidence available and a good spread of opportunists. Separating the wheat from the chaff and finding a fair methodology is best done through quiet dialogue and far from excitable politicians with the next election uppermost in their minds.”

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NFFO sets out its position on granting of UK fishing licences

by editor time to read: 6 min