Documents to download

This briefing is correct as of March 2021 but an update was added to this page ahead of a debate in Westminster Hall on 13 July 2021.

Some changes, such as  an agreement on how to share fishing stocks with the EU, are a result of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) while others, such the UK becoming a third country for fisheries exports to the EU, would have happened regardless of the terms of the TCA.

Fisheries is a small part of the UK economy. However, the economic activity from fisheries is concentrated in specific coastal areas, where it is important both socially and economically. Fisheries featured prominently in the Brexit debate. Fishers, both quota and non-quota sectors, were expecting greater fishing opportunities. The processing sector and shellfish exporters concerns were about access to export markets and potential border delays.

Agreement between the UK and the EU was reached on 24 December 2020. Heading Five of Part Two of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) covers fisheries. Under the agreement 25% overall of the existing EU quota in UK waters will be transferred to the UK over a 5 ½ year period to 30 June 2026, with specific percentages of annually agreed Total Allowable Catches (TACs) agreed for each fishing stock. Mutual access to each other’s waters will be through a licencing system for fishing vessels. After 2026 negotiations on access and share of stocks will take place on an annual basis, although provisions exist for multiannual agreements. Any disagreement will be resolved through arbitration and provisions exists for trade measures to be applied by either party if the Agreement is breached.

The end of the transition period has resulted in a number of significant impacts for the industry, including problems and delays at borders and a ban on GB and Crown Dependencies exports to the EU of live bivalve molluscs for depuration. This has resulted in the Government setting up a £23m support fund for fish exporters, which has been extended to include the catching and shellfish sector.

For an overview of the negotiations prior to 2021 see Commons Briefing Paper The UK-EU future relationship: the March 2020 EU draft treaty and negotiations update. Further background can be found in the Commons Briefing Papers on Fisheries and Brexit, Fisheries Management in the UK and UK Fisheries Statistics

Update: Debate on 13 July 2021

On Tuesday 13 July there will be a debate in Westminster Hall on ‘fisheries management after the UK’s departure from the EU’, led by Alistair Carmichael MP. This briefing paper, written in March 2021 sets out key parts of the fisheries management system from 1 January 2021. The following information provides brief updates.

The Library paper Fisheries Management in the UK includes a section on the management of fisheries in the UK, including in devolved administrations.

On 10 June 2021 Victoria Prentis, the Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food, made a written statement outlining the outcome of fisheries negotiations, noting:

  • That the UK and EU had now concluded an agreement fishing opportunities for 2021.
  • That trilateral negotiations between the UK, EU and Norway concluded on 16 March 2021 covering six jointly managed North Sea stocks.
  • That agreements between the UK and Norway and UK and Faroes had not been possible this year.

On the UK-EU agreement the Minister said:

The agreement we have just reached with the EU, for 70 EU-UK TACs, results in a total value of fishing opportunities for the UK in 2021 of approximately 160,000 tonnes, worth approximately £333 million. This is around 26,000 tonnes more than in 2020, with an estimated value of £27m.

On non-quota stocks, due to the late conclusion of negotiations this year and the need to provide our respective industries with clarity, the UK and EU agreed that, exceptionally, tonnage limits would not be applied in 2021.

The UK and EU have instead agreed to work together through the Specialised Committee on Fisheries to develop multi-year strategies for managing non-quota stocks as a priority, as well as addressing challenges in mixed fisheries management, particularly in the Celtic Sea and on implementing a longer-term exchange system for quota.

Exchanges of quota with the EU, as part of annual negotiations, were not possible this year. However, the agreement includes a commitment to quickly develop an interim basis for exchanging fishing quota ahead of a longer-term exchange system to be decided by the Specialised Committee on Fisheries. The UK expects that quota exchanges would be part of future annual negotiations, as provided for in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

We have also agreed changes for 2021 on seabass to reduce wasteful discarding, without increasing fishing mortality.

Following the announcement of the UK-EU Agreement on 10 June 2021, responses to the agreement were given by some organisations such as the National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations and the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation; responses are also given in the Financial Times article UK and EU agree deal on fishing rights [subscription required].

The European Scrutiny Committee considered the agreement and reported to the House on 29 June 2021.

Fishing quota allocations for 2021 for England and the UK have been published.

Recent debates and legislation

On 16 June 2021 there was an oral question in the House of Lords on the Fishing Industry.

The issue of negotiations with Norway and the Faroes was covered in the adjournment debate on 27 May 2021: Distant Fleet Fishing: Kirkella Trawler.

On 10 June 2021 the Government laid regulations regarding fisheries management in the Celtic Sea and on seabass catches. Further information is given in the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Committee report on the measure.

Documents to download

Related posts