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UK to withdraw from international fishing arrangement

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The government is to end an arrangement that allows other countries to fish in UK waters, it has been announced. The convention allows Irish, Dutch, French, German and Belgian vessels to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of UK coastline.Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the move would help take back control of fishing access to UK waters.But Greenpeace said ending the arrangement would not alone improve the future of the UK’s fishing industry. The Scottish government backed the exit, saying it had pressed for the move “for some time”.The London Fisheries Convention sits alongside the EU Common Fisheries Policy, which allows all European countries access between 12 and 200 nautical miles of the UK and sets quotas for how much fish nations can catch.’Historic step’Withdrawing from the convention, which was signed in 1964 before the UK joined what became the EU, means UK vessels will also lose the right to fish in waters six to 12 nautical miles offshore of the other countries.What happens to the 12 to 200 mile area will be one of the issues at stake in Brexit negotiations. Read more on how Brexit would affect fishing waters Michael Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr the change was about “taking back control” of UK waters, 6-12 miles from the coast. When the UK left the EU it would become an “independent coastal state”, he said.The relationship between the UK and Ireland was governed by a separate agreement, he added.He said the EU’s common fisheries policy had been an environmental disaster and the government wanted to change that, upon Brexit, to ensure sustainable fish stocks in future. Inshore boostGovernment figures say fishing contributed £604m to UK GDP in 2015 and employed around 12,000 fishers. In 2016, the fish processing industry supported around 18,000 jobs.The industry’s body, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, welcomed the decision.Chief executive Barrie Deas said: “This is welcome news and an important part of establishing the UK as an independent coastal state with sovereignty over its own exclusive economic zone.”Its chairman Mike Cohen said a 12-mile exclusive zone for UK boats would be “a good thing” for the UK’s inshore fishing fleet. ‘Aggressive tactic’But Will McCallum, Greenpeace UK head of oceans, said leaving the convention would not in itself deliver a better future for the UK fishing industry, and that for years governments had blamed the EU for their “failure” to support the small-scale, sustainable fishers. He called the change was “a bit of a fuss over nothing” and said leaving the convention would, like Brexit, involve a two-year negotiation process. The UK would also still be bound by the UN convention of the law of the seas – which requires cooperation with neighbours. Mr McCallum added that Westminster had had the power to decide how the fishing quota was allocated since a reform of the Common Fisheries Police in 2013. But he said a Greenpeace report published in 2016 had found almost two thirds of that quota was concentrated in the hands of three companies. Environmental law firm ClientEarth consultant Dr Tom West said the move appeared to be an aggressive negotiating tactic.”As a country outside the EU we need to consider how we can best co-operate with our neighbours, rather than unilaterally withdrawing from all agreements in the hope that standing alone will make us better.”
Source: BBC