Fisheries Bill

Written evidence submitted by ANIFPO/Sea Source (FISH05)

Messrs James Gray MP, Sir David Crosby MP,

David Hanson MP & Laurence Robertson MP

Chairs

House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Fisheries Bill

Dear Sirs,

UK Fisheries Bill - Northern Ireland

Regretfully the fishing industry in Northern Ireland currently suffers from somewhat of a democratic deficit. No functioning Executive means that Northern Ireland is without a Fisheries Minister. Furthermore we regret that no Northern Ireland MP has been appointed to the Committee. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the interest shown by both the Minister George Eustice MP and his officials at DEFRA.

During the Brexit process we have been continually reminded that ‘Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’. With fisheries, nothing has been agreed other than the UK and EU agreeing to use their "best endeavours" to agree a new fisheries agreement by 1st July 2020. Whilst the EU has accepted that under International Law (UNCLOS) the UK will become an Independent Coastal State, it continues to reiterate the line that any future UK/EU trade deal will be dependent on the EU maintaining existing access to and fishing opportunities in UK waters. The Prime Minister, Secretary of State and others have stated in writing and at the dispatch box that the UK will not permit this link. We hope this position can be maintained. Without such an agreement much of what is contained in the UK Fisheries Bill is meaningless.

Crew - resolving issues around non-EEA crew

This is the most critical issue for the sector in Northern Ireland. The issue has been well documented elsewhere. No resolution has been forthcoming from Government. Disappointingly no recognition of the issue was made by either the Secretary of State or the Minister during the second reading of the UK Fisheries Bill in the House of Commons on 21st November, despite the matter being raised by MPs from all parties, from all across the UK. Brexit offers a ‘sea of opportunities’ for the UK’s fishing industry. The Prime Minister has talked about Brexit affording us the opportunity to rebuild the UK’s Coastal Communities. Regardless, it is clear we need a bridge to reach that goal and resolving the issues around recruiting experienced and qualified crew from around the world is critical to securing that objective. Clearly non-EEA labour issues cannot be covered in a UK Fisheries Bill; this is probably an issue for future UK immigration policy, but if Government is serious about the future prospects of the industry and our coastal communities then this issue must be dealt with now.

UK Fisheries Bill

Overall the Bill is welcome. The Committee has taken evidence from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) and the United Kingdom Association of Fish producer organisations (UKAFPO). Whilst we would endorse their views, we nevertheless have some concerns. For us, probably the most important section of the Bill is Clause 18, Fishing Opportunities. It is clear that existing quota should continue to be allocated on the existing basis of FQA (Fixed Quota Allocation) units between the UK’s Fisheries Administrations. A move away from the FQA basis for allocating existing quotas is not right, fair or practical.

In respect of any future additional quota arising from Brexit, allocation methodologies are notoriously controversial. Zonal attachment is one methodology being examined for future quota shares between the UK and EU. Below UK level, devolved administrations should allocate as they see fit. Any internal UK distribution based around zonal allocations will prejudice fishermen from Northern Ireland and is something that Northern Ireland could not accept. The Northern Ireland zone is small. Traditionally Northern Ireland fishermen have been nomadic and have invested in quota opportunities all around the UK to be sustainable and legal. Fishermen in the Irish Sea have been disadvantaged by the application of EU rules including the Hague Preference. They should not be disadvantaged by any future split of new UK quota entitlements.

We would also support the creation of an Advisory Council, involving industry and officials from all parts of the United Kingdom. An Advisory Council could play a critical role is avoiding or resolving disputes between UK Fisheries Administrations. Such councils already successfully operate in Norway and Australia.

Included with this submission is a copy of the Conclusions and Recommendations from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report on Brexit and Fisheries, published on 15th September 2018. We would recommend Committee members consider the points therein as they contemplate the Bill. [1]

One third of our Organisation’s membership comprises of Anglo-Spanish fishing vessels.

The first vessels registered in the UK go all the way back to the 1960s. By 1980 there were proximally 62 Anglo Spanish vessels on the UK registry and up to 128 in 1988. When the Common fisheries Policy was enacted and Relative Stability quota shares were agreed between Member States the catches made by these vessels made a significant contribution to the UK’s quotas for hake, monk, megrim and ling, reflecting their historic activity under the UK flag.

Between 3 and vessels have been fishing in the Indian Ocean for the last 15 years, which will also contribute to a future TAC for the UK in quotas such as Tuna, Swordfish and many other species. They are the only UK vessels that have fished in the Indian Ocean.

Our Anglo-Spanish members have generated their own fishing quotas and not fished for species that are caught by the UK domestic fleet, such as Cod, Haddock or Mackerel. They are High Sea vessels meaning they mainly fish outside 6/12 miles of Uk territorial waters, a completely different fishery to the under 10m fleet. The Anglo Spanish have only purchased quotas they target and most of this has come from other Anglo -Spanish vessels that have left the UK fishing registry.

They contribute economically to the coastal fishing ports in the UK by landing their catches. They also gift quota every year to the UK under meter vessels and like any other UK domestic vessels they pay taxes in the UK. They also sell small parts of their catches in the UK which is gradually increasing but cannot land all quantities as this would over flood markets in the UK.

As with the UK domestic fleet the Anglo Spanish vessels have suffered under the Common Fisheries Policy.

Two thirds of our membership are based in Northern Ireland, These vessels range in size from 86m pelagic trawlers, to under 10m signed handed fishing vessels targeting shellfish. Our fishing community is proud to have some of the most successful fishermen in Europe in their midst. Such businesses have built a considerable quota shareholding, which to repeat is something our entire fishing community is proud of.

From our largest, to our smallest, from our members based in Northern Ireland to our Anglo-Spanish fishing vessels, each and everyone of them has contributed to the economic sustainability of our fishing communities in at home. Our members have collectively worked together to found a co-operative (Sea Source) that has a fish auctioneering business, two small fish processing plants, a training provider and offshore services company. They promote their seafood at home and overseas, with developing export markets in Europe, the Middle east and the Far East. Their most recent project has been the acquisition of a trawler that is owned and operated collectively by Sea Source.

Having proven what they can do in the face of challenges, our fishermen’s ask today is that they be given the tools to develop the industry and deliver for Northern ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom.

Yours sincerely,

Alan McCulla OBE (Chief Executive)

December 2018

 

Prepared 6th December 2018