UK Fisheries Ltd – Written Evidence (NFF0005)

 

This submission is focused on the UK’s future negotiations with the independent coastal state of Norway and the extent to which the Norway-UK Fisheries Framework Agreement (FFA) reflects the existing EU-Norway Fisheries Agreement and associated agreements which it aims to replace, and in that process protects the future of the UK’s distant waters fishing fleet.

 

  1. Background to UK Fisheries: This submission is made by UK Fisheries Ltd, a British company based in Hull. We operate specialised distant-waters trawlers that fish for cod and haddock in the Northern External Waters[1] and elsewhere. We supply approximately 8% of all fish sold through UK fish & chip shops. We employ over 120 people (crew and staff) in the Humberside area, and our contribution to the UK economy has amounted to £120m over the past decade or so[2].  It is estimated that for every fisher at sea there are between four and ten people employed on land in ancillary roles[3], meaning that there are up to 1,2oo people (plus their dependents) who are reliant on the viability and future health of UK Fisheries.  As the December 31 end-of-transition deadline approaches, UK Fisheries has been offered informal reassurance from Defra that arrangements will be in place to allow the UK’s distant waters fleet to continue to operate in 2021. Yet it is difficult to see what official mechanism there is in place to guarantee our continued ability to fish in distant waters. There seems to be a lacuna in negotiations, in which the interests of the UK distant waters fleet have no official protection in any agreements currently under discussion.
  2. The UK distant waters fleet, based in Hull, currently fishes for Arctic cod and haddock in the Norwegian Economic Zone (NEZ) (broadly speaking in areas IIa2 and IIb2 on the map); i.e. not in the North Sea
  3. This access was granted through the bilateral fisheries agreement between Norway and EU of 1980 and an Exchange of Letters between the EU and Norway of 1992 (“the Exchange of Letters”).
  4. Together these agreements give Norway an obligation to offer the EU 4.14 % of the yearly TAC[4] of Arctic Cod, from which the UK directly benefits, under current arrangements, taking more than one half.
  5. Much of the ‘currency’ exchanged for access to this Arctic cod takes the form of a reciprocal opportunity for the Norwegian fleet to fish in the UK EEZ.
  6. In the Explanatory Memorandum on the Framework Agreement on Fisheries between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Kingdom of Norway (i.e. the FFA), the Secretary of State for Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs states:

“The UK-Norway Fisheries Agreement reflects the EU-Norway Fisheries Agreement in that it provides the framework for a fisheries relationship between two independent coastal States.”

  1. He also states that:

“The EU-Norway Fisheries Agreement has provided important fishing opportunities for the UK in Norwegian waters. The UK-Norway Fisheries Agreement will be important for securing continued fishing opportunities for the UK fleet.”

  1. However, from the perspective of the UK distant-waters fleet there are significant shortcomings in the FFA as it fails to reflect the obligations contained in the Exchange of Letters as intrinsic to the totality of the EU-Norway fisheries arrangements which it seeks to reflect.
  2. The FFA therefore fails to reflect the legal certainty for the distant waters fleet, currently contained in the Exchange of Letters, which guarantees that Norway provides an Arctic cod quota to the EU every year, more than half of which is passed to the UK as a party to those agreements.
  3.         It is therefore unclear whether current UK fishing opportunities for Arctic cod in the NEZ will continue to be protected as a part of the UK’s bilateral negotiations with Norway.
  4.         As a result of this:
    1. the UK distant waters fleet currently has no guarantee that it will be able to fish in these distant waters when the transition ends on December 31, 2020; and
    2. we believe that the FFA is not sufficiently widely drafted to encompass the full extent of fishing opportunities currently available to the UK in the NEZ and reflected in the combined EU-Norway Fisheries Agreement and the Exchange of Letters, both of which the FFA should aim to replace.
  5. Therefore, so far as the UK’s distant waters fleet is concerned, the FFA does not provide an effective basis for annual negotiations on managing access to each country’s waters, stocks and agreement on quotas, since:
    1. The FFA fails to fully reflect all the current fishing opportunities that exist in the EU-Norway Fisheries Agreement and the Exchange of Letters, which it should aim to replace;
    2. The FFA omits any mention of the UK’s access to Arctic cod quotas in the NEZ, crucial to the future of the UK’s distant waters fishing fleet, and focuses instead on shared stocks in the North Sea;
    3. The FFA completely ignores the existing trilateral arrangements in the EU-Norway Fisheries Agreement, which cover arrangements for the EU to access Arctic cod in the NEZ, an arrangement to which the UK is a party, and from which the UK benefits as the recipient of more than half that quota; and
    4. The FFA also ignores the fact that the EU mostly uses fish caught in the UK EEZ as ‘currency’ to pay Norway for the Arctic cod.

Accordingly, as currently drafted the FFA will not provide an effective basis for annual negotiations on managing access to each country’s waters, stocks and agreement on quotas, as not all stocks covered by existing arrangements between the EU and Norway are covered in the FFA.

  1. As a result, the FFA as currently drafted could adversely impact the UK distant waters fishing fleet and associated fisheries’ businesses, jobs and investment in the Humber region. Without access to the NEZ to fish for Arctic cod, the UK distant waters fleet, which fishes out of Hull and has invested more than £120m in the region in recent years, will have no guarantee of significant fishing opportunities in 2021, resulting in loss of the UK’s distant waters fleet, jobs and investment in the Humber region.
  2. Recommendation: The FFA should be amended to reflect the terms of all existing fisheries arrangements between the EU and Norway including in the Exchange of Letters so as to seek to guarantee UK fishing opportunities for Arctic cod in the Norwegian EZ.

 

29 October 2020

 


[1] ‘Northern External Waters’ is the term used by the EU to describe the waters to the north of its waters. These belong to Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes.

[2] Direct investment and taxes paid.

[3] Seafarers UK Fishing for a future report 2018

[4] Total Allowable Catch