Scotland’s two largest fishing associations have urged the UK Government to walk away from the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) on Brexit day.
The Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association (SWFPA) and Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA), which together represent nearly 300 vessels fishing in the North Sea and off the west coast, said yesterday there was growing concern among their members about the terms of the government’s proposed implementation period for leaving the EU.
Any failure to move immediately to assert control of UK waters and manage fisheries as an independent coastal state would be “extremely damaging” and “completely unacceptable”, they warned.
SWFPA chief executive Mike Park said: “An implementation period in which the UK had no voting rights in framing EU laws and regulations concerning its own fisheries would expose Scottish fishermen to serious harm. We depend on the outcomes of annual fisheries talks and international agreements for our very existence.
“It would be unthinkable to relegate our fishermen to the status of powerless bystanders in their own waters, unable to control or affect what happens in them.
“If the UK Government is truly seeking to create stability for business as we exit the EU, then it has to acknowledge the serious damage that can be caused to fishing as a result of a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Fishing is a unique industry that deserves bespoke treatment.” SFA executive officer Simon Collins added: “It would be a nonsense for the UK to hand responsibility for its waters straight back to Brussels at the point of Brexit.
“It would not be an extension of the status quo – it would be far worse, as we would be powerless to prevent non-UK fleets hammering our fish stocks during the implementation period. We insist on full control over access to our waters and the management of our fisheries as an independent coastal state from March 2019, when we withdraw from the EU and CFP.
“An implementation period may make sense for some business sectors, but fishing is emphatically not one of them.”
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), with the SWFPA and SFA among its constituent members, favours a nine-month transitional “bridge” between leaving the CFP and assuming coastal state rights.
An SFF spokesman insisted yesterday the fishing bodies were speaking as one, as exiting the CFP in March 2019 was an essential first step to then seting up a nine-month transitional bridge.
He added: “If we continue to operate under EU rules during the transition or implementation period we have very little power to be able to influence decision-makers.”
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesoman said: “The environment secretary has already set out a clear direction for the UK’s fishing industry outside the EU: one which will lead to a more profitable and resilient sector, and where we will work with adjacent states to manage fish stocks sustainably and effectively.”