Scottish Fishermen’s Federation – Written Evidence (NFF003)

 

  1. The SFF is a democratically constituted industry group set up in 1973 and its key aims are:
  1. We have eight constituent associations within the Federation, with over 400 vessels within their membership, representing a wide range of fishing businesses, both inshore and offshore and catching a wide range of fish and shellfish species. The value at first landing of the Scottish fishing industry in 2019 was just under £0.6 billion. Scottish vessels accounted for 58% of value and 62% of landings of all fish caught by UK vessels.

SFF’S Priorities for The UK’s Future Relationship With The European Union

  1. The UK’s departure from the EU and its Common Fisheries Policy allows the UK to become an independent coastal state, and to control access to our fishing waters – just like our neighbours do, in Norway, in Faroe and indeed as the EU itself does. This is the accepted norm under international law, unambiguously specified in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

 

  1. The SFF’s priority, through a standalone fisheries agreement with the EU, is that the UK, as an independent coastal state under international law, must be able to determine for itself who catches what, where and when in UK waters. In order to do this, the UK must control access of non-UK vessels to the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and be able to negotiate annually on access to fishing opportunities. This can be achieved through a Framework Agreement on fisheries that sets the high-level framework for annual negotiations on fishing opportunities, with quota shares based on the modern, science based method of zonal attachment – based on where fish actually are, rather than the outdated and unfair method called relative stability that applies in the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), where quota shares are fixed, based on historical fishing patterns of almost half a century ago.

 

  1. Under the CFP, the UK is entitled to catch less than 40% of all the fish caught in the UK’s EEZ, so by default, more than 60% of fish caught in the UK’s EEZ are not caught by the UK fleet. In contrast, the UK catches only around 10% of its total catch from outwith UK waters. And once EU-brokered agreements with third parties are taken into account, the UK’s share in our own waters drops to less than 30%.

 

  1. Compare this with Norway, our neighbour across the North Sea with which the EU shares a number of stocks, but where Norwegian vessels account for upwards of 80% of the total catch in Norwegian waters. This is what the UK industry aspires to; a model whereby the coastal state has priority to harvest the natural resources in its own waters.

 

The UK - Norway Framework Agreement on Fisheries

 

  1. This is an historic Agreement – the first one signed by the UK as an independent coastal state since leaving the EU earlier in 2020.
     
  2. SFF welcomes and supports this Agreement in full. It reflects the international norm in framework agreements on fisheries as described above, setting out how two independent coastal States will cooperate, and providing a framework for annual negotiations between the parties on access to each other’s waters and to fishing opportunities.

 

  1. The Agreement requires cooperation between the parties on the management, sustainable use and long-term conservation of fisheries through the application of agreed and shared principles. These principles are largely aligned with the principles of the UK Fisheries Bill as introduced, currently making its way through Parliament.

 

  1.                     There are three important elements that we support in particular. Firstly, that there is no right of access granted to each other’s waters in the long term or in perpetuity – access is the subject of annual negotiations between the parties. Secondly, the Agreement recognises zonal attachment as a principle of international fisheries management applied by coastal States when discharging their obligations under UNCLOS and related instruments in relation to the joint management of shared stocks. Thirdly, the provision for annual negotiations, which is the standard practise for fisheries agreements between coastal States in the north-east Atlantic, and reflects the type of Agreement that Norway has with others, such as the European Union.

 

  1.                     SFF consider that this Agreement is an excellent platform for the UK and Norway to work together on fisheries in the future, and that the Ministers and officials in both countries are to be congratulated on securing it. It is also firmly SFF’s view that this Agreement is an excellent model for an agreement on fisheries between the UK and EU, as the EU and Norway have worked very constructively for over 40 years under a largely similar Framework Agreement. 

 

27 October 2020