Protection of Isle of Man fisheries not guaranteed post-Brexit says Fisheries Minister, Geoffrey Boot. Photo: sunshineramsey71
Isle of Man Fisheries Minister Geoffrey Boot has admitted he cannot give any commitment on protection measures for Manx fishing rights after Brexit takes full effect on 01 January 2021.
The IOM Today website reports that last week in Tynwald, Chris Robertshaw (Douglas East) called for an explanation of the island’s position in terms of territorial rights, in light of previous comments on the island’s position by Chief Minister Howard Quayle.
Mr Quayle had previously told the House of Keys that the British fleet might be called on to protect Manx waters from misuse by fishermen from other countries. But doubt has been cast on that possibility.
Mr Boot, whose Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture is responsible for the island’s fishery, was unable to provide much reassurance during this week’s debate on Brexit trade regulations, after concerns were raised about the island’s ability – beyond its one protection vessel – to safeguard its waters from intrusion.
“I obviously can make no commitments here as to what resource will be available to us and where that resource in the UK or elsewhere will be deployed,’ he admitted.
“We have what we have here but we may be able to supplement it, but I cannot make any commitment.
“Any vessels that do fish in our waters that are not licensed will be committing an offence and how we will enforce will be something that we will have to look into.
“Let’s hope that it doesn’t reach that point and that an agreement is reached that is satisfactory for all parties.”
Asked what the situation would be in terms of fishing rights in Manx waters after the end of the Brexit transition, the minister said: ’Unfortunately I cannot be definitive about the situation with the negotiated position between the UK and the EU and we are a part of that arrangement.
“We know a little bit about the direction of travel but nothing is certain at the moment.”
Mr Boot added: “The default position is that Isle of Man waters will be only open to vessels from France, Belgium and Ireland, as licensed by this department, which is the position as it is with track record and historically and that is the position that we would like to see at the very maximum maintained.”
Mr Robertshaw warned of difficulties if fishermen from other jurisdiction took a ’more aggressive stance’ over entering Manx waters – and that could be just weeks away.
He added: “We must have some contingency ideas about how we might protect our waters.”
Mr Boot said a licensing regime had been prepared to be brought in for vessels from France, Belgium and Ireland.
In terms of direct enforcement, he said, there was the fisheries protection vessel Barrule and patrols could be stepped up.
“In the past we have worked with the Welsh enforcement agencies, they have a number of fisheries patrol vessels far in advance of our own,” the minister said. “There are issues around that in terms of warranted officers and how we manage that.
“If the situation arose where we were having difficulty I am sure that through the Cabinet Office, I say this – I cannot make any commitment, we would speak to the UK authorities in an endeavour to help the situation.”
But Mr Robertshaw said he had been told it was ’highly unlikely’ the Royal Navy would be available to help protect Manx waters, as they would have other waters to protect, and suggested the Welsh fisheries authorities would be in a similar position.
“Our vessel is slow and staffed at a very low level,” said Mr Robertshaw.