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France disappointed with fishing talks with UK, more talks scheduled

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France is disappointed by the pace of negotiations with Britain on settling a row about post-Brexit fishing rights but talks are set to continue, the head of a French fishing association said on Saturday (23 October), writes Richard Lough, Reuters.

His remarks appeared to suggest French fishermen were stepping back from threats to hold protests from this weekend over Britain's refusal to grant more fishing licences to their vessels.

Olivier Lepretre, chairman of the Regional Maritime Fisheries Committee in northern France, said talks this week had resulted in only a handful of fishing licences being issued for French fishing boats in British territorial waters.

He deemed this too timid a step to resolve the dispute with Britain but said the European Commission, the EU executive, would press on with talks with Britain.

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"Technical work will continue over the coming days, and at a steady pace," Lepretre said.

French officials accuse Britain of refusing to honour its post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU, and the national committee of maritime fishermen (CNPMEM) said that maritime minister Annick Girardin had assured French fishermen she would not give up the fight to obtain licences for them.

"(The minister) is disappointed by the technical work done this week, but we can't deny some progress has been made," Lepretre said. "I can see that the government is not giving up an inch."

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The dispute centres on the issuance of licences to fish in Britain's territorial waters six to 12 nautical miles off its shores, as well as the seas off the coast of Jersey, a Crown Dependency in the Channel. Read more.

Paris is angered by London's refusal to grant what it considers the full number of licences due to French fishing boats.

Britain said last month it was open to further discussion with the boats it had rejected, adding that they had not submitted evidence of their history of operating in the waters which was needed to continue fishing in the 6-12 nautical mile zone.

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European Commission

New strategy to improve sustainability of fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea

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The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) has adopted its new 2030 Strategy for the Mediterranean and Black Sea at the end of the 44th annual session, which took place between 2 and 6 November. An agreement was also reached on an ambitious package of measures translating the Strategy into concrete actions. The European Union will support the implementation of the Strategy with an increased financial grant.

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, welcomed the results of the annual session: “The new GFCM 2030 Strategy provides the framework and the necessary tools to ensure a sustainable, just and inclusive future for our fleets and our local communities, while protecting the ecosystems in the region. We must act quickly and decisively. The EU remains committed to the implementation of the new strategy.”

The adopted ambitious package of measures includes a first-ever multi-annual plan (MAP) to manage Adriatic small pelagic stocks (anchovies and sardines), an additional reduction of the fishing effort for key demersal stocks and new Fisheries Restricted Areas (FRA), which will together prevent the collapse of the small pelagic fish, support the recovery of the demersal stocks and the long-term profitability of the Adriatic fisheries. Other recommendations tabled by the EU include important measures to improve fisheries management and control in the Adriatic and Black Seas, better protect sensitive species and habitats, and consolidate the monitoring and control framework, including combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) activities in both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The new strategy builds on recent achievements. With its five targets, it takes an integrated approach to the complex challenges in the region and the ‘green transition'. Furthermore, the Strategy continues to support local communities and their livelihoods along the value chain, with special focus on small-scale fisheries.

There will also be coordinated measures to ensure decent working conditions, support young people and properly recognise the role of women in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, as well as promote the participatory decision-making process. More information is available in this news item.

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Euro-Mediterranean relations

Oceana applauds new steps forward on transparency for Mediterranean fisheries

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Oceana welcomes the adoption by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of a measure that will improve its Authorised Vessel List. As of the next round of reporting by GFCM member countries, the list will publicly display which vessels are allowed to fish in which restricted areas, allowing more transparency and effective monitoring. The measure is an outcome of the 44th annual GFCM Commission meeting that took place from the 2-6 November.  

“We applaud the decision of the GFCM to prioritise transparency and accountability in the fisheries sector by approving the modification of its Authorised Vessel List. This outcome will allow authorities, researchers and NGOs to cross-check information and have more clarity on which vessels can fish where, to prevent illegal activities at sea. To effectively tackle IUU fishing, it is essential to keep improving the list, to make it more complete and transparent,” said Helena Álvarez, marine scientist at Oceana in Europe. 

Oceana asks Mediterranean countries to further expand the information included within the GFCM Authorised Vessel List, requiring additional important information such as the vessel owner, previous flag and greater detail relating to the types of fishing licenses granted. Following best practices in other RFMOs, this information should be publicly accessible through the GFCM website, along with all other information contained within GFCM’s Authorised Vessel List. 

Oceana also welcomes the adoption of a new Fisheries Restricted Area (FRA) in the Bari submarine canyon in the South Adriatic Sea, a 1000 km2 area closed to bottom trawling, protecting important cold-water coral reefs, nursery grounds for sharks and essential fish habitats for European hake, red mullet and deep-rose shrimp. At the meeting, the proposal to permanently establish the Jabuka/Pomo Pit FRA (Northern Adriatic) was also adopted. For Oceana, these steps are important advances to improve the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems and expand the network of fisheries closures in the Mediterranean and Black seas.  

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Brexit

France pushes back deadline for fishing row sanctions

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Waves crash against lighthouses during Storm Ciara at Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, February 10, 2020.  REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday (1 November) his government was postponing implementation of sanctions on Britain over a fishing row until the end of Tuesday (2 November) while the two sides discuss fresh proposals to resolve the dispute, write Elizabeth Pineau and Christian Lowe.

France alleges Britain is not honouring a post-Brexit deal on access to British fishing grounds and had earlier said that from midnight (2300 GMT) on Monday it would retaliate by stepping up checks on trucks coming from Britain and barring British trawlers from docking in French ports.

"Since this afternoon, discussions have resumed on the basis of a proposal I made to Prime Minister (Boris) Johnson. The talks need to continue," Macron told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.

"We'll see where we are tomorrow at the end of the day, to see if things have really changed."

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