UK fishing industry furious for failing to strike a deal with Norway
Britain’s fishing industry reacted angrily on Friday after the government failed to secure an annual reciprocal access deal with Norway, in what it described as another post-Brexit blow to the British fleets.
The backlash came after the agriculture department, Defra, announced it had been unable to strike a deal with the Norwegian government, whose subarctic waters are a key source of cod, a valued fish of UK consumers.
Jane Sandell, managing director of UK Fisheries, which owns the super trawler Kirkella which catches around 10% of all fish sold in UK chip shops, said the failure to strike a deal was a “very dark day for Great Britain. Brittany ”and a“ National embarrassment ”.
The company said it has invested around £ 180million over the past 20 years in the Humberside fishing industry, with an additional investment of up to £ 100million planned, and that the The absence of an agreement threatened the livelihoods of approximately 100 crew employed in and around Hull. on the northeast coast of England.
“[Environment secretary] George Eustice owes our crews and the Humberside area an explanation as to why Defra has not even been able to maintain the rights we have to fish in Norwegian waters for decades, let alone brag. of a “ Brexit Bonus ”, which turned into a disaster. She said in a statement.
She added that failure to enter into bilateral deals with one of the UK’s traditional partners around the North Atlantic, including the Faroe Islands and Norway, would leave the UK dependent on cod imports. duty free. “It is simply a shame and a national embarrassment,” she concluded.
Representatives of the Scottish fishing industry said previous agreements with Oslo involved granting access to Scottish waters in exchange for the UK’s access to Norwegian fishing grounds in the Barents Sea .
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said that while it was “very disappointing” that there would be no bilateral agreement between the UK and Norway in 2021, the decision of the United Kingdom to resist an agreement had sent a clear signal on the independence of the United Kingdom. .
“There is an obvious advantage: the fact that the UK is now an independent coastal state means that we have been able to sever the link between arctic cod and Scottish fish,” he said.
Defra said in a statement he had worked hard to get a deal but said he would only make deals if they were “balanced and in the best interests of the UK fishing industry”, but that had not been possible.
“We have presented a fair offer on access to UK waters and the exchange of fishing quotas, but we have concluded that our positions remain too far apart to reach a deal this year,” he said.
The government added that Norway was a key partner for the UK and that work would continue with Oslo during the year.
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations said failure to reach an agreement would result in the “loss of very important fishing opportunities” which would push boats to compete in the already limited waters of the North Sea and to the west. of Scotland.
“Failure to reach an agreement with Norway will mean a significant and absolute reduction in fishing opportunities for our fleets,” they said, adding that they would press ministers to secure additional support for the vessels concerned. .
Mike Park, Managing Director of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, which is not so dependent on access to Norwegian waters. said Brexit had created a new dynamic between coastal states that would take time to settle.
“The collapse of the negotiations with Norway is disappointing on several levels, although it is important for the future to find the right balance in the search for an agreement,” he said.
Elspeth Macdonald, managing director of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said that although the Scottish fleets were not directly affected, a deal would have helped the whitefish fleet in a very difficult year for the industry.
“The government’s inability to secure a good chunk of the fishery in Brexit negotiations, alongside our fleet not having access to Faroe Islands and Norwegian waters this year, means that our fishing opportunities and models for 2021 are very limited, ”she said.