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UK denies fishing licenses to French boats

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The UK government announces EU under 12m in length vessels that will be licensed to fish in the UK 6-12 nautical mile zone, writes The Rt Hon George Eustice MP.

Almost 1,700 EU vessels licences have now been licensed to fish in UK waters. Of these, 117 licences have been issued for EU vessels to fish in the 6-12 nautical mile zone where supporting evidence of a track record was available.

There are thirty five smaller vessels which did not have supporting evidence where licences have not been issued but where the UK government remains open to further discussion and evidence. The UK is clear on methodology with decisions based on evidence available and in line with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

The UK government will publish the list of EU under 12m in length vessels that will be licensed to fish in the UK 6-12 nautical mile zone on Wednesday 29 September.

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A UK government spokesperson said: "The government has this year issued a large number of licences to EU vessels seeking to fish in our exclusive economic zone (12-200 nautical mile zone) and our territorial sea (6-12 nautical mile zone). Our approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

"As regards the 6-12nm zone, as set out in the TCA, EU vessels must provide evidence of a track record of fishing activity in those waters. We have been considering applications for vessels of under 12 m in length to fish in this zone and, on the basis of the evidence available, we are able to grant licences for 12 of the 47 applications made.

"We continue to work with the Commission and the French authorities and will consider any further evidence provided to support the remaining licence applications."

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France's Europe Minister Clement Beaune said: "We understand and share the frustration of our fishermen. It is not acceptable not to respect an accord that was signed. We've said at all levels, including at the level of the President of the Republic and Mr Johnson, that we cannot cooperate in confidence with the UK on other issues until the Brexit deal is honoured, including fish. I hope we don't get to that point but there is retaliatory action that is possible applying the accords, in the area of commercial area on a certain amount of British products, in the area of energy, there are a number of areas where the British are dependent on us. We have a global agreement, if the British do not respect the agreement on fish we can take measures and we won't hesitate to do so."

Almost 1,700 vessels have already been granted licences to fish in the UK 12-200 nautical mile zone and a further 105 licences were issued for vessels to fish in the 6-12 nautical mile zone where evidence was available to support a track record over the five year reference period.

There were 47 smaller vessels, under 12 metres, where data was less available and where further supporting evidence was requested to support their application to fish in the 6-12 nautical mile zone. Having assessed all available evidence, we have now licensed a further 12 under 12m vessels to fish in the 6-12 nautical mile zone of our territorial sea. The approach we have taken is reasonable and fully in line with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement brought in changes to fishing arrangements between the UK and the EU. The UK is required to grant access to vessels which fished in the relevant parts of the UK’s 6-12 nautical mile zone in four out of five years between 2012 and 2016.

The UK requires reasonable evidence to assess applications against the requirements:

  • Positional data showing fishing activity in our territorial waters.
  • Data recording catches of any of the permitted species corresponding to the same date or time period as that positional data.

The UK has left the EU and as an independent coastal state is committed to sustainable fisheries management. Defra continues to work with counterparts in the Commission and with French authorities. We welcome any further evidence from the EU, using our published methodology, to assess other existing licensing applications from EU vessels.

Full licensing criteria will be published on the UK Single Issuing Authority’s website on Wednesday (29th September 2021).

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Maritime

Commission welcomes landmark agreement on the conservation of North Atlantic Shortfin Mako shark

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The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) reached yesterday afternoon a landmark agreement on a Recommendation on the conservation of North Atlantic stock of shortfin mako shark (pictured). Welcoming the agreement, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Today's agreement is an important step forward on the road to recovery of this iconic species. Thanks also to the EU's leadership in the negotiations, we have managed to establish an effective rebuilding program for North Atlantic shortfin mako shark, including immediate action to reduce mortality and end overfishing.”

The agreement reached by all parties around the ICCAT table this year is crucial as it kick-starts a rebuilding programme for North Atlantic shortfin mako shark in 2022, after two years of unsuccessful negotiations. Once in force, the robust measure agreed will lead to ending the overfishing of this vulnerable stock and will chart a path for its recovery. One of the key aims of the Recommendation is to drive down mortality rates significantly. The Recommendation includes complementary measures, such as best handling practices and tasks the scientific body of ICCAT to explore a range of mitigation measures, from spatial and temporal closures to gear modification, to assist this ambitious rebuilding program. More information is in the 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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France

France and Britain defuse fishing row with 'positive' talks

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French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune shakes hands with British Brexit Minister David Frost during their meeting in Paris, France November 4, 2021 in this handout picture obtained from social media. H. Serraz/French Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

France and Britain moved to defuse their dispute over fishing on Thursday (4 November), with sanctions off the table for now but all options still possible should talks fail, French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said, write Noemie Olive, Sudip Kar-Gupta, John Irish, Ingrid Melander in Paris and Michael Holden and Kylie MacLellan in London, Reuters.

Beaune was speaking after meeting British Brexit minister David Frost in Paris after France and Britain came to the brink of a cross-Channel trade war over fishing.

At the heart of the dispute is the number of licences London allocated to French boats after leaving the European Union. France says many are missing, while London says it is respecting the deal.

Thursday's meeting was "useful and positive", with more talks due next week, Beaune said, welcoming a new "state of mind" and adding that he had agreed with Frost to intensify talks on the licences.

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France had threatened to step up checks on trucks and produce from Britain and to bar British trawlers from French ports. But it pulled back on Monday to allow a fresh attempt to negotiate a solution.

"All options are still on the table," Beaune said, adding: "as long as dialogue seems possible ... we are giving it a chance, with no naivety ... and with a requirement to see results."

France will take stock of the situation next week, he said. "There is still a lot of work to do," he said, and France was still missing about 200 fishing licences.

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Britain echoed some of Beaune's comments, with both sides saying the ministers would talk again early next week.

"The French government have been clear they are not looking to proceed with those threats ... in the coming days," Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said. "I think both sides are keen to have further discussions."

After meeting for about an hour and a half, Beaune and Frost shook hands on the steps of the ministry, smiling and chatting in front of the cameras. Beaune posted a picture of them shaking hands in front of British, French and EU flags.

"Both sides set out their positions and concerns," a British government spokesperson said.

Frost will meet European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic in Brussels on Friday, the UK spokesperson said.

Britain and France have argued for decades over the fishing grounds around their Channel coasts, an issue which also dogged years of Brexit negotiations before Britain completed its withdrawal at the end of 2020.

The latest dispute erupted in September over the number of post-Brexit fishing licences. France seized a British scallop dredger, which has since been released. Read more.

Reasserting British control over its fishing grounds was a central plank of the case for Brexit that Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented to voters. The issue is also sensitive for French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of next year's presidential election.

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