7.The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) governs European fishing fleets and fish stock conservation. It began in 1970 and was most recently reformed in 2014. The CFP grants all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters to create fair competition. It aims to ensure that European fishing is sustainable, balancing fishing with conservation.
Box 1: Scope of the CFP
The primary policy areas covered by the CFP are:
8.The CFP manages fisheries in Member States through measures that control how many tonnes of fish can be harvested each year (quotas), and through technical regulations. It also provides structural funding to fishing communities and fishers, regulates marketing standards for fish products and sets autonomous tariff quotas for fish imports.
9.Fisheries are prone to over-exploitation, and political borders do not apply; many species move freely between national territorial waters. According to the 2016 Brexit: Fisheries report by the House of Lords European Union Committee: “In the absence of co-operative management of stocks that are shared by two or more countries, fish become vulnerable to over-exploitation”, and co-ordination and a shared approach is often required in order to manage the resource.
10.The CFP aims to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are “environmentally, economically and socially sustainable” and that they provide a source of nutritious food for EU citizens. Its stated goal is to foster a “dynamic fishing industry and ensure a fair standard of living for fishing communities”.
11.Historically, the CFP was criticised for mismanaging stocks and incentivising overfishing. In 2009, the Scottish Government described it as “the EU’s most unpopular and discredited policy”. The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) told us that one of the worst features of the CFP had been its “inflexible rigidity”. Prior to 2015, the discarding of undersized fish or fish that were over a vessel’s quota under the CFP caused particular concern. This was reformed from January 2015, obliging fishers to land all catches.
12.In July 2017, the Secretary of State announced that the UK would withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention that the UK had joined in 1964. This largely covers the management of fisheries within the North Sea, along with other Western European coastal nations.
13.In July 2017, the Secretary of State announced that when the UK left the EU it would also withdraw from the CFP. In July 2018, the White Paper on The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union stated that:
On leaving the EU, the UK will become an independent coastal state under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). As a result, the UK will control access to fish in its waters, both in territorial seas and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
14.The Fisheries White Paper set out Defra’s vision for UK fisheries policy, which was that “leaving the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) gives us the opportunity to introduce a sustainable, responsive and resilient new fisheries policy”. It explained that Defra’s “aim is to build a vibrant and sustainable UK fishing industry by taking responsibility for managing fisheries resources within UK waters, while continuing to protect and improve the marine environment, in line with [the] 25 Year Environment Plan”.
15.The Fisheries Bill establishes the legal framework for the UK to operate as an independent coastal state under UNCLOS after the UK has left the EU and the CFP. Its provisions create the framework for a common approach to fisheries management between the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations and reforms fisheries management in England. It includes:
16.The EU regulations of the CFP will be retained in UK law under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. In addition to the Fisheries Bill, Defra plans to lay statutory instruments to correct retained EU law on fisheries to make it operable in UK law.
17.Jim Portus, Executive Secretary, South Western Fish Producer Organisation, told us that:
If we get this Fisheries Bill right—and I think there is room for some amendments to it before it becomes law—we will be in the good position to transit from where we are to where we want to be simply because the common fisheries policy itself embodies in its legislation most of the tenets of the United Nations Convention.
4 European Commission, , accessed 16 January 2019
5 European Commission, , accessed 16 January 2019
6 [Bill 278 (2017–19 −EN)], page 6; The Fisheries Bill 2017–19, , House of Commons Library, 3 December 2018
7 For example, in 2016, the UK was allocated €243 million from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. European Commission, , accessed 16 January 2019
8 European Commission, , page accessed 16 January 2019
9 House of Lords, Brexit: fisheries, Eighth Report of the Committee on the European Union, Session 2016–17, , page 6
10 European Commission, , page accessed 16 January 2019
11 , December 2009, accessed 16 January 2019
12 The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) (), page 2
13 Institute for Government, , accessed 16 January 2019.
14 , Defra Press release, 2 July 2017
15 “UK to ‘take back control’ of waters after exiting fishing convention”, The Guardian, 2 Jul 2017
16 HM Government, The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, , Para 54
17 Defra, Sustainable fisheries for future generations, , July 2018, page 6
18 Defra, Sustainable fisheries for future generations, , July 2018, page 8
19 [Bill 305 (2017–19 −EN)], page 4
20 [Bill 305 (2017–19 −EN)], pages 4–5
21 [Bill 278 (2017–19), page 15; The Fisheries Bill 2017–19, , House of Commons Library, 3 December 2018, pages 22–23
Published: 20 January 2019