Most fishermen support leaving the EU. They know that EU Common Fisheries Policy has not worked for British fishermen. Fishermen want a viable future putting nutritious food on our tables.
This was the message George Eustice MP (Fisheries Minister) and I heard when we met with the fishing industry on Monday. Some in the industry are nervous that politicians will trade access to UK waters as part of a new trade deal with the EU. With Michael Gove (DEFRA Secretary) and George Eustice, I am confident that we will strike the deal our fishing fleet require. It’s important to remember that when we leave the EU international law applies. This gives the UK control over access to the 200 nautical mile limit and the median line (from the shores of neighbour-states).
Some say that managing access will be difficult to navigate and difficult to enforce. I say we follow the example of other independent coastal states that are used to this and negotiate with other states routinely. We are entering an exciting but crucial time for the British Fishing Industry yet attracting fresh blood into the sector is proving difficult. Prospective crew members need to know that fishing is a worthwhile job and provides a living. We also need to reach local consumers. Much of the fish landed in West Cornwall finds its way to foreign markets.
Finally, fishermen are still discarding quantities of valuable fish. Good stock management is important – livelihoods depend on it. However, tons of dead fish thrown back to sea does nothing to preserve stocks. In local waters discard is partly due to our mixed-fishery – as Forest Gump once said ‘you never know what you’re going to get.’ – yet EU regulation tells fishermen what they get to land.
In 2018 we will have sight of a British Fisheries Bill. Ministers and the sector will seek to address these challenges and set a direction for British fishing that could transform our fishing communities. I invited George Eustice back to listen to our local fishermen because I want to ensure UK fishing policy understands and reflects the particular interests and diversities of our local fleet.