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Will Scottish Fishing Stocks Be Under Threat with Brexit?

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has insisted that the sustainable harvesting of fish stocks will remain a key priority for the industry after the UK leaves the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

It comes after environment secretary Michael Gove said the UK would leave the London Convention, which allows vessels from six European countries to fish in UK inshore waters, within two years as a precursor to quitting the CFP.

The London Fisheries Convention of 1964 allows access to the 6-12 mile zone of a coastal state if another state’s fishing fleet has traditionally fished there.

In the UK, vessels from France, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium have this access. Article 15 of the London Fisheries Convention states “…any Contracting Party may denounce the Convention by giving two years’ notice in writing…”. The UK Government has announced its intention to quit this agreement.

This all comes at a time when much higher numbers of north sea cod, haddock and whiting may be available to Scots fishermen next year, according to new scientific assessments.

The annual advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) – an international network of marine and fisheries scientists – helps to inform the fisheries negotiations in the EU that take place in the autumn to decide how much quota fishermen will receive in the coming year.

The latest science includes advised increases for North sea cod (27%), whiting (34%), Norway Lobster (7%), saithe (7%) and haddock (30%), while there are advised reductions for other stocks such as hake (-4%).

SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong said:

“The idea that our exit initially from the London Convention and then the CFP will instantly herald a return to the old days of overfishing is preposterous and, frankly, insulting. Those who make such remarks have clearly not been looking closely at what has been going on in the industry.”

“Observers and those who claim to be stakeholders in our industry need to understand that Brexit will lead to a redistribution of quotas, and not an increase.”

“The industry has brought itself back from the edge of the precipice through its commitment to sustainable fishing, and most major stocks are now caught at or near maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels. Why on earth would we want to dangle our feet over the edge again?”

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity in the Scottish Government Fergus Ewing said:

“This advice marks the start of our annual cycle of fisheries negotiations and shows encouraging increases in some of our most valuable stocks for the coming year…. welcome news for the fishing industry with whom we will work closely over the summer to help shape our priorities for the autumn talks.”

“Despite the uncertainties of Brexit, the Scottish Government will always stand up for our fishing industry, which too often has been let down by the UK Government.”

“We will be pushing for a negotiating outcome that has Scotland’s interests at its heart.”

When The UK Leaves the EU and the CFP, as a coastal nation it will still be bound by The United Nation Convention on the law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This means that the UK will still have responsibilities on how fish stocks are managed and reaching agreements with other nations on how this is done. It also means that the fishing rights of other nations will require to be taken into account.

Bertie Armstrong will hold talks with Mr Gove and DEFRA officials later this week on the future of the industry.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

Related Story: What is the London Fisheries Convention?

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