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New Fisheries Bill promises to protect UK fish stocks after Brexit

PUBLISHED: 00:01 29 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:05 29 January 2020

The new Fisheries Bill will protect UK fish stocks after Brexit, says the government. Picture: Archant

The new Fisheries Bill will protect UK fish stocks after Brexit, says the government. Picture: Archant

All fish stocks in UK waters will have their sustainability protected by law after Brexit, according to the government’s proposed new independent legislation on fisheries.

The Fisheries Bill being introduced into parliament today creates the powers for the UK to operate as an independent coastal state, implementing its own policies and managing its own fish stocks.

It contains a legal guarantee the UK will quit the EU-wide Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) at the end of the transition period in December 2020. At present, the CFP dictates how much British fishermen can catch and where, and fishermen have often complained they do not get a fair share of what is caught in UK waters.

The new legislation will end the automatic right of EU vessels to fish in British waters, with access to fisheries set to be a matter for the UK to negotiate in the future.

Foreign vessels will have to be licensed and follow rules set by the UK if they fish in British waters.

The bill's publication comes in the wake of a warning from Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar that Brussels would look for concessions on fishing in exchange for the UK's financial services industry to have better access to the European single market.

It contains a legal requirement for all fish stocks to be fished within "sustainable limits", and aims to ensure species such as dolphins are protected and bycatch of unwanted fish is reduced.

It will allow for management plans that are more tailored to the UK's mixed fisheries, where different fish stocks swim together, and that take into account the whole marine environment, officials said.

READ MORE: Could new Agriculture Bill spark a new dawn for farming and the environment?

There are also measures on "climate-smart fishing" to consider the impacts of climate change on fisheries - which could see fish move or struggle in the face of rising temperatures - when managing stocks.

The plans also recognise that many fish stocks are shared with other countries, which will mean negotiation is important to ensure sustainable catches.

Environment secretary Theresa Villiers said: "This new Fisheries Bill takes back control of our waters, enabling the UK to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for our coastal communities, whilst securing the long-term health of British fisheries.

"Leaving the EU's failed Common Fisheries Policy is one of the most important benefits of Brexit. It means we can create a fairer system which will allow marine habitats to thrive, with new powers to support our fishing sector and conserve our wonderful Blue Belt at home and abroad."

Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, said: "The central purpose of the bill is to give UK ministers powers to manage UK fisheries after we leave the Common Fisheries Policy. We very much welcome that."

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