Deal will put fishing '˜back in our hands'
Fishermen in Fleetwood have welcomed plans by the Government to end a controversial arrangement that allows other countries to fish in UK waters.
It is a move which many in the industry have been calling for over many years.
Current inshore fishermen and former trawlermen in Fleetwood say the move could provide a vital boost to what remains of a local industry decimated by the 1970s Cod Wars and tough EU quota limits.
But the move has also led conservationists to warn about the effect on fish stocks, while fears have been raised that it could even lead to the return of international disputes like those old Cod Wars.
The move will see ministers bring about withdrawal from the London Fisheries Convention, signed in 1964 before the UK joined the European Union, to start the two-year process to exit from the agreement.
The convention allows vessels from Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of the UK’s coastline, and vice versa.
Ex-Fleetwood fisherman Brian Cato, 65, of Beach Road, Fleetwood, said: “This is really good news, it is why many people in Fleetwood voted for Brexit in the first place.
“We have had years of having Fleetwood fishermen sit back helplessly while boats from Europe sailed in and took our catches.
“This will put British fishing grounds back in our own hands for the first time in years.”
Asked about conservation fears, Mr Cato said: “The fishing grounds and the stocks will be properly monitored and with the technology these days, you don’t need the Royal Navy to police the seas.
“Any boat, anywhere in the world, can be tracked.”
Mr Cato believes this latest moves could gradually trigger a recovery of the industry in Fleetwood and ancillary jobs for engineers, fitters and drivers.
The move has also been welcomed by Will Bamber, 34, of Westgate, an inshore fishermen who is one of less than a dozen from Fleetwood still working in an often-struggling industry.
Mr Bamber said: “This is definitely a positive thing, and I think if anything it will be more beneficial to the smaller boats we now have in Fleetwood.
“Without the big boats from continental Europe ploughing up massive amounts of fish, this will not only help us but I believe it will help fish stocks all over Britain.
“I don’t think it will result in boats from other European countries not fishing here at all.”
But Fleetwood MP Cat Smith said: “Given that the majority of fish caught by UK vessels are within the Atlantic (fishing area 27) which includes the edge of Greenland to North Russia and as far south as the bottom of Spain/Portugal, it is vital that any Brexit deal does not jeopardise access to these waters for our British fishing fleet.
“I am concerned that this provocative decision at this stage of the negotiations puts at risk those necessary and far more valuable fisheries management arrangements we will need to agree on leaving the EU as well as a tariff free trade deal so vital to our British fishing exports.”