96% of British fishermen voted for Brexit, saying they wanted to “get their waters back” and break away from the European Union’s common fisheries policy,
which they believe has damaged their industry. But as the Brexit deadline approaches, British and other European fishermen who rely on the fish-rich seas of the British Isles are no wiser about how to leave the EU will affect their livelihoods.
British fishermen blame the EU quota system, which sets catch limits by species, to prevent them from earning a decent living. They also want to see fewer boats from other EU countries fishing in the UK’s Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ), an area defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea that extends 200 nautical miles from the coast. As long as the UK is in the EU, its EEZ is classified as ordinary water.
But when it comes to post-Brexit fishing conditions, there are a lot of potential problems to anticipate. Overfishing can occur if the UK stops complying with EU quotas, which has helped keep fish resources sustainable. British fishermen currently export 75% of their catch, mostly to the EU. If Britain loses free access to its largest market, its fishermen will have to look for buyers elsewhere. Unfortunately, British consumers are largely uninterested in the cornucopia of species that their fishermen catch. Imported cod, salmon and tuna are the most common fish in the UK.
And with or without Brexit, it is likely that the supply of small-scale British fishermen will improve if the British government does not address the imbalance in quota ownership. Greenpeace UK has revealed that 29% of the UK’s fishing quota is owned or controlled by just five families on the Sunday Times Rich List. Will McCallum, Chief of Staff at Greenpeace UK, says: “Many of these companies were among those who saw the possibility of” taking back control “of our waters by leaving the EU.
They are taking politicians and ordinary fishermen on a journey, because they know exactly who “And the same politicians who beat Europe to break Britain’s fisheries sector are the ones who limit the majority of the fishing quota to this handful of rich families. It’s a betrayal of Britain’s fishermen.”
When the UK and the EU negotiate a Brexit agreement, fishing rights are another fixed point that has so far left fishermen on both sides of the canal in the dark without being able to plan for their future.
Scott Wharton, a British fisherman, told FRANCE 24: “We have no problem with foreign fishermen, the Belgians, the French, the Spanish. They are trying to support their families, just like us. It is the decision makers who need to fix things. “.