News: UK Fisheries boss: Next six months will 'shape future for fishermen'
By Phil Winter, Business Editor, Hull Daily Mail
13 January 2020
New permanent deals must be reached to allow UK fishing firms to continue operating in waters around Norway and Russia post-Brexit.
The first six months of the year could “shape the future for our fishermen,” according to Sir Barney White-Spunner, advisory board chairman at Hull-based UK Fisheries.
Sir White-Spunner said it is “vital” that permanent deals are reached which would enable trawlers to catch fish in the Barents Sea – a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean – once the UK leaves the EU.
UK Fisheries’ Kirkella trawler currently catches fish in the White Sea under an agreement between EU nations and the Scandinavian country.
Sir White-Spunner said: “When the UK leaves the EU and is no longer bound by the Common Fisheries Policy, our industry undoubtedly stands to gain.
“The government will have the freedom to allocate quotas for UK waters as it sees fit, but there is still likely to be some kind of trade and access relationship with the EU, as well as with states currently known as ‘third countries’ – not least Norway, the Faroes and Greenland.
“At UK Fisheries, we are of course particularly concerned with the fortunes of the English distant-waters fishing fleet, which for centuries has operated in the rich but dangerous fishing grounds of the Barents and Greenland Seas.”
The boss of UK Fisheries last year spoke of the damaging impact a no-deal Brexit could have on the company.
Speaking ahead of the October 31 deadline, CEO Jane Sandell said: “There is the potential for us to be severely damaged.
“The agreements we currently have with Norway to fish in its waters would disappear. On day one of a no-deal Brexit, that would be gone.
“There isn’t really an alternative for us. If we cannot fish in those waters then we will stop fishing, and we have 150 people who work at UK Fisheries.”
Shortly after, UK Fisheries announced a “continuity agreement” had been struck between the UK and Norway which would have allowed the company to continue its operations beyond October 31.
As it was, the UK did not leave the EU on October 31. The event however stood to highlight the importance of such a deal being reached.
The Kirkella trawler owned by UK Fisheries recently became the first in more than a decade to land fish in Hull.
The 81-metre-long ship catches eight percent of all the cod and haddock used in fish and chip shops across the country.
UK Fisheries employs around 150 people. To secure jobs for the future, it is vital that the UK can strike permanent deals with the likes of Norway post-Brexit.
Sir White-Spunner said: “The Department for International Trade and Defra have over the past few months shown they are able to strike sensible agreements with third countries.
“The same focus and flexibility are required from both Departments of State for the negotiation of new, permanent, bi-lateral deals which will grant our partners continued access to the UK market for selling fish, and maintain the fishing opportunities now enjoyed by UK vessels operating sustainably in and around the Barents Sea.
“Fishing is a part of our local heritage. It can and will have a bright future if all our fishermen and women are allowed to get on with what they do best – bringing home British fish in a sustainable way.
“If our new representatives in Westminster fully understand this, then we need have no fear for the future of our industry.”
The new crunch-date for Brexit is January 31.
Whatever happens on that date, it is clear the start of 2020 will be pivotal for companies such as UK Fisheries.