United Kingdom to withdraw from London Fisheries Convention

Ross Houston
July 2, 2017

The convention allows vessels from five European countries - Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands - to fish within an area six miles off Britain's coastline.

"We actually catch very very little fish in the 6-12 mile zone of other European countries and what we do, it's nearly entirely in Ireland and it's a very small amount".

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the move will lead "to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the UK".

"This is an historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union - one which leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the United Kingdom", he said.

But UKIP Fisheries spokesman MEP Mike Hookem, speaking from Hull, until the 1970s one of the world's biggest fishing ports, said he feared another "wholesale betrayal" of fishing communities.

According to government figures, British fishing vessels caught 708,000 metric tons (792,960 USA tons) of fish in 2015, worth 775 million pounds (894 million euros, $1 billion).

Britain signed the convention before it joined the European Union and would be bound by its terms after leaving the bloc unless it starts to withdraw from the treaty now.

According to 2015 figures, Britain's fishing industry includes more than 6,000 vessels and hauls in 780,000 tons of fish worth $1 billion.

Britain and Iceland clashed frequently over fishing rights between the 1950s and 1970s in a series of confrontations known as the "cod wars" while more recently Spain's large fishing fleet has caused friction with the United Kingdom since the creation of the single market in 1993.

Minister Creed says: "Today's announcement by the UK Government is unwelcome and unhelpful". He said: "It is about ensuring that fishermen use the right fishing gear, that fishing takes place at levels that maintain sustainable stocks and that we pioneer ways to monitor what is happening at sea in order to understand the impacts of fishing".

But Will McCallum, Greenpeace UK head of oceans, said leaving the convention would not in itself deliver a better future for the UK fishing industry, and that for years governments had blamed the European Union for their "failure" to support the small-scale, sustainable fishers.

"Many fish stocks in United Kingdom waters are shared with our neighbours and so need co-operation and shared management".

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