The UK is a global leader in the fight to protect our seas with our ‘Blue Belt’ of protected waters.
The Common Fisheries Policy has restricted our ability to implement fisheries management measures within offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The Fisheries Bill proposes a new power to allow the introduction of measures for conservation purposes.
The Government is currently considering the recommendations of the Benyon Review into Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). HPMAs are defined as areas of the sea that allow the protection and recovery of marine ecosystems.
The Fisheries Bill, currently going through Parliament, will help to protect our marine resources and develop plans to restore our fish stock back to more sustainable levels. This builds on a manifesto commitment which promised to introduce a legal commitment to fish sustainably as we become an independent coastal state once again. The Bill strengthens the MMO’s powers in a variety of areas, including ensuring that they can restore and enhance, as well as conserve, the marine environment in the offshore zone, and to continue to support the delivery of the Government’s Blue Belt Programme.
As set out in the Withdrawal Agreement, during the transition period, we have agreed that we will continue to apply current fisheries rules, and shared access to waters will continue until the end of 2020. While we are still part of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), EU registered vessels are legally entitled to fish in our waters.
We will automatically take back control of our waters, and others’ right to fish in them, at the end of 2020. For the first time in 40 years, we will be free to decide who can access our waters to fish and on what terms.
The Fisheries Bill prohibits any commercial fishing vessel (including foreign-registered vessels) from operating in UK waters without a licence. It also provides powers to attach conditions (such as the areas that can be fished, species that can be caught and the type of fishing gear that can be used) to fishing vessel licences. Foreign vessels operating in UK waters will have to follow UK rules, including the conditions that are attached to their commercial fishing licence.
Leaving the CFP gives us the opportunity to introduce a sustainable, responsible and resilient new fisheries policy. This means we will consider the sustainability of our stocks and our precious marine environment, and take the steps necessary to allow them and our domestic industry, to flourish.