Denmark accuses UK of breaking Brexit fishing deal over trawling ban | Brexit
Denmark has accused the UK of violating the post-Brexit fisheries agreement over its intention to ban destructive bottom trawling in a North Sea conservation area.
The UK announced in February that it wanted to ban bottom trawling in the Dogger Bank conservation area in the North Sea, a move hailed by conservationists who hope to see a resurgence of halibut, sharks and rays in the sandbank once rich in marine life.
In an interview with the Guardian, Danish Fisheries Minister Rasmus Prehn said such plans were not in line with the post-Brexit deal.
“Brexit deal guarantees full access [for EU vessels] to fish in UK waters until 2026. And so, of course, it’s a really big deal for us if the UK government is going to change that. We find this unacceptable and it is a violation of our agreement, ”he said.
The prosecution opens a new front for the UK government, which is already embroiled in a spiteful dispute with France over fishing rights, amid a larger backdrop of post-Brexit tensions with the EU.
Dogger Bank, a large, shallow sandbank about 90 miles northeast of the Humber Estuary, has been fished by Danish boats for centuries and is among the country’s most important fishing grounds, according to the Danish government.
Under the Brexit trade and cooperation agreement reached between the EU and the UK last Christmas Eve, EU fishermen can continue to access UK waters as before until June 30 2026, a transition to delay the blow of reduced fishing rights in the future.
The agreement also commits the two parties to “promote the long-term sustainability” of the 70 common fish in the shared waters.
Prehn said Danish fishermen “are already in a very difficult situation because of Brexit, so it would be even more difficult for them and we cannot really accept it”.
While he said it was premature to discuss possible retaliation, he revealed his disappointment at the deterioration in UK-Denmark relations since Brexit.
“It’s really hard to come to an agreement and just a year later we have these problems with a game; it’s not really acceptable, that’s not how we usually make deals. With the UK we had a very good relationship, ”said Prehn.
He was speaking from Brussels as the UK and the EU embark on the final sprint of negotiations to set catch limits for the fishery in 2022, ahead of the December 10 deadline.
Denmark and the UK joined the then European Economic Community together in 1973, but arrived too late to influence the first version of the Common Fisheries Policy, leaving UK officials with lingering resentment.
Between 2013 and 2020, Danish fishermen landed catches worth DKK 27 million (£ 3.05 million) per year through bottom trawling at Dogger Bank, mainly sandeels, which are used in fishing grounds. fish farms but are also an important source of food for puffins, kittiwakes and seals. .
Germany and the Netherlands also have fishing interests in the Dogger Bank, which environmentalists say has been overworked by trawls and dredges, causing a drastic drop in fish.
Bottom trawling involves dragging weighted nets on the seabed.
Environmentalists hailed the government’s decision to protect Dogger Bank, but said the UK must show the same efforts when it comes to protecting fish targeted by UK fishermen.
“The UK has a good and courageous deal on the Dogger Bank,” said Irene Kingma, a Dutch marine biologist. “It’s also very easy… when it’s not your fishing that you have an impact. “
“The UK is very progressive on all environmental issues as long as it does not interfere with its own fishing interests,” she added. “They are good at [protecting] Dogger Bank, because its flatfish are caught by the Dutch, and they are good for industrial fishing [sandeel] because it is fished by the Danes. But they’re not at all willing to move on the cod when it’s the Scottish fishing boats. “
The UK government rejects the claim it violates the ATT, arguing that it allows both sides to decide on regulatory action. A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The UK is a world leader in the fight to protect our seas. As an independent coastal state, the UK can decide on the regulatory measures that apply to fishing in our waters, which includes taking action to follow scientific advice and protect our marine environment.