Over 95 Per Cent of Fish Taken from British Marine Protected Area Went to EU

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Over 95 per cent of the fish taken out of Britain’s marine protected areas is ending up in the European Union, according to researchers.

Britain’s Conservative Party-led government has already agreed to pay the EU a multi-billion “divorce” settlement — despite having paid far more into the EU budget than t had taken out over the decades — and submit the British province of Northern Ireland to EU regulations in an attempt to secure a Brexit deal, but the bloc is still refusing to agree one, with its demands for continued control over Britain’s national fisheries a key sticking point.

Now a report by the Blue Marine Foundation revealing that over 95 per cent of the 100,000 tonnes of fish taken from Dogger Bank in 2017 and 2018 went to the EU in an “unlawful asset-stripping operation” has added a further wrinkle to the dispute, with the NGO arguing catches which damage the marine environment, vital for the survival of porpoises, seals, and other marine life, are illegal under the Offshore Habitats Regulations.

“What should make it even easier for ministers to enforce the law is the disclosure today that almost none of this unlawful fishing activity is actually benefiting the UK Treasury and in fact it is damaging a marine asset that absorbs lots of carbon, thereby costing the UK money reducing its emissions elsewhere in the economy,” said Blue Marine Foundation executive director Charles Clover.

“What’s happening on the Dogger Bank is not an isolated example – throughout the UK’s waters, we see supposedly protected areas full of destructive industrial fishing boats that don’t even land their catch in UK ports,” said agreed Greenpeace head of oceans Will McCallum.

“Now with Brexit looming large on the horizon, our Government must seize this second chance to turn promises into a reality by properly protecting our marine protected areas and ensuring that our local, more sustainable fleet has great access to our fish.”

The European Economic Community, as the EU then was, changed its rules to designate national fishing waters as a so-called “common resource” shortly before Britain joined the bloc in the 1970s, bringing the richest fisheries in Western Europe with it.

It doles out the lion’s share of Britain’s fish to other EU member-states, with a significant proportion of what is supposed to be Britain’s quota also being landed in the EU by foreign vessels which take the British flag — a trick Parliament tried and failed to outlaw in the 1980s, with judges ruling it could not be stopped under European law.

Consequently, the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has seen tens of thousands of British fishing industry jobs destroyed over the years, and the fishing fleet reduced to less than half its former size.

Reclaiming full control over Britain’s territorial waters is a longstanding goal of Brexiteers, but EU negotiators are determined to retain a degree of control over them, and may even have threatened to ban the British from selling fish into EU markets if they do not submit — a punishment which it has not inflicted on Iceland or Norway, which participate in the EU Single Market via the European Economic Area (EEA) but have not been forced to give up control over their fisheries.

At least ten EU supertrawlers are believed to have descended on Britain’s waters in what may be a last-ditch effort to strip its fisheries of as much as possible ahead of a potential no-deal Brexit at the end of the 2020 “transition” period.

“The Common Fisheries Policy has restricted our ability to implement fisheries management measures within offshore marine protected areas. From 1 January 2021, we will be an independent coastal state, with the power to introduce measures for conservation purposes,” a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

They were cagy on what these measures might actually be, but insisted that Britain “will be able to decide which vessels can access and fish our waters” and that “The new licensing framework within the Fisheries Act will allow us to apply conditions to the activities of all fishing vessels in our waters – regardless of their nationality – and they will have to abide by UK rules around sustainability and access to our ‘Blue Belt’ of protected waters.”

“The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has already undertaken a call for evidence to inform the management decisions of five marine protected areas, including Dogger Bank,” they added.

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