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Committee receives briefing from fisheries experts

30 April 2020

On Wednesday 24 April the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee held a private briefing with fisheries experts on the UK's negotiations with the EU on fisheries and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the UK fishing industry.

Impact of coronavirus

The briefing began with the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the UK fisheries sector, including the reduction in demand from restaurants and difficulties for exporters. In addition, the effects of the Government's support schemes were discussed.

The Committee heard of the innovative efforts in some areas to provide fish direct to local people and to promote local demand for types of UK fish that are generally in higher demand abroad. The Committee is currently undertaking a major inquiry into COVID-19 and Food Supply which is looking at many of these issues.

Fisheries negotiations

Last year the EU and the UK committed to reaching an agreement on fisheries by 1 July 2020. The UK will currently leave the EU Common Fisheries Policy at the end of 2020.

The Committee heard that there this is currently a sizeable gap between the EU and the UK's negotiating positions, but that the experts felt that an agreement was necessary to ensure the continued sustainable management of shared fish stocks and to protect livelihoods in the fisheries industry in the UK.

Issues covered in the briefing included:

  • The UK and EU's objectives in the negotiations, and the legal and historical context to them.
  • The differing perspectives and interests of different parts of the UK fishing sector – those involved in catching, processing and suppling seafood – and what the different parts of the catching sector especially wants to come out of the negotiations.
  • The importance of access to European markets for many UK fishers being as friction free as possible, especially for live exports, and of imports from the EU to many UK processers.
  • The need for an EU UK agreement to make sure the many shared fish stocks that live in and are caught in UK and EU waters, are managed sustainably through effective cooperation, to ensure this key environmental resource can continue to provide economic and social benefits in the long-term.
  • The legal and practical challenges, and opportunities, of enforcing new UK rules on access to its waters and fisheries

The Committee intends to take public evidence on progress on the negotiations and their potential impact on the UK industry in the coming months.

The Committee heard from:

  • Professor Richard Barnes, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research, in the Faculty of Business, Law and Politics.
  • Professor Selina Stead, Head of the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling.
  • Dr Bryce Beukers-Stewart, Senior Lecturer in the Environment Department at the University of York.

Further information

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