Eustice says UK in ‘final stages’ of fishing quota negotiations
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Environment Secretary George Eustice told the Commons this morning the Government is closing in on a deal. The agreement will see UK and EU fisheries allowed to swap quotas between themselves in order to benefit each producer.
Fishers have been crying out for an agreement to be reached with Brussels to give them greater flexibility.
The failure to agree fishing terms with the Faros and Norway means Scottish boats are forced to largely only catch whitefish in their own waters.
They must share the quotas with their EU counterparts, meaning there is limited catch available.
Mr Eustice told MPs: “As I speak we are in the final stages of negotiations on annual exchanges with the EU that will help the whitefish sector.”
The 25 percent increase in fishing stock for UK fisheries agreed as part of the EU trade deal only equated to a small increase for species such as cod.
It means while many fishers have access to a larger catch than when the UK was in the EU, some such as those within the whitefish sector have not yet felt the benefit.
“We want to deliver for all sectors,” Mr Eustice added.
The potential breakthrough will come as a relief to fishers in Scotland.
Last month, Mr Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association (SWFPA) warned there had been a £23million shortfall in the catch of whitefish compared to 2020.
He told Fishing News: “The species that we do need, we don’t have enough of.
“To try to offset that loss in financial terms just doesn’t make sense.
“It’s a big gap to fill, and it can’t just be filled by fishing harder on other species, because you’re fishing harder for them anyway.
“Some vessels are going to find it difficult, and some businesses will fail.”
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Answering questions in the Commons, Mr Eustice also said the UK was already preparing for the next round of annual quota negotiations with Brussels.
He said: “For 2021 the Government has secured fishing opportunities of around 628,000 tonnes of quota across all of the annual negotiations.
“That’s approximately 55,000 tonnes more than last year.
“The Government is now preparing for the next round of annual fishing negotiations.
“We’ve held a series of briefings with stakeholders this month on the latest scientific recommendations and we will be developing our mandate in the months ahead.”
Despite the uplift and the Government closing in on a quota swap deal with the EU, Labour accused ministers of letting down the fishing industry.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said the Government had “failed” the industry.
He said: “Where in the Tory manifesto did it say you would actually give away control of our waters and where’s the plan for fishing?”
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