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Following Brexit, the UK will no longer be part of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It will become an independent coastal state and be fully responsible for managing fisheries in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 miles. This will include setting total allowable catches (TACs) and determining who has access to fisheries.

Sustianble fisheries after Brexit

The 25 Year Environment Plan, published in January 2018, set out details of the Government’s aims for a sustainable fisheries policy after Brexit, based on a natural capital approach, which would allow for sustainable fisheries, whilst protecting and enhancing the marine environment. This was followed by the publication of a Fisheries White Paper, in July 2018, which recognised that “healthy fish stocks are the first step to vibrant commercial and recreational fishing industries, and prioritises a healthy marine environment” and committed to work under the principle of maximum sustainable yield. The White Paper included details of the proposed Fisheries Bill, which would create powers for “retained EU fisheries law to be amended expeditiously by secondary legislation”; and include proposals for powers to deliver agreements reached with the EU and other coastal states on access to waters and fishing opportunities.

Fisheries management in the UK (including quota allocation) is devolved, with different approaches taken by the four administrations. A Concordat in 2012 established common practice for vessel licensing, effort management and quota distribution.

The Fisheries Bill

The Fisheries Bill, published on 25 October 2018, is a framework bill that will provide the UK Government with powers to set annual total allowable catches for UK waters, and provide the UK Government and devolved administrations with powers to the amend the fisheries regulations that will be transposed into UK law from EU legislation. In addition to this, a number of Articles in the EU CFP Regulations are revoked or amended. The Bill includes a number of Henry VIII powers. The devolved administrations have taken different positions on a number of issues, including to what extent the Bill requires legislative consent.

The Bill reflects the objectives set out Article 2 of the EU Regulations and provides for the how these will be reflected in policy across the UK, although it does not include a duty to meet these objectives. It also includes powers for the UK Government to set fishing opportunities, and for England only, powers to create a scheme for sale of quota and charging for discards. The Bill also extends the powers of national authorities with regard to marine conservation to the whole of the UK EEZ.

Second Reading of the Bill took place in the House of Commons on 21 November 2018. The Committee stage of the Fisheries Bill took place between 4 and 17 of December 2018. The Bill now includes eight Government amendments, some of them included at the request of the Devolved Administrations. One Conservative amendment was successful. No Opposition amendment where successful. Both Government and Opposition committed to return to several areas during Report stage. There were also several amendments proposed by Conservative Members that were negated on division. All clauses of the Bill except one, which deals with devolved powers, will apply to all parts of the UK. Should clause 18 of the Bill not be in force on exit day the Government has set out that it has prerogative powers to set fishing opportunities until the Fisheries Bill becomes law.

Fisheries: Brexit Negotiations and Fisheries Management in the UK Commons Briefing Papers provide further information within the context of the leaving the EU.  Further information is also available in the on how fishing opportunties are set can be found in  PostNote UK Fisheries Management

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