New Fisheries Bill (UK)

The UK Government lodged its Brexit Fisheries Bill at First Reading on 25th October 2018. The Bill and its Explanatory Notes are here.

The Fisheries Bill (the Bill) will provide the legal framework for the United Kingdom to operate as an independent coastal state under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) after the UK has left the European Union (EU) and the Common Fisheries Policy (the CFP). The Bill creates common approaches to fisheries management between the UK government and the Devolved Administrations, known collectively as the Fisheries Administrations, and makes reforms to fisheries management in England.

A couple of aspects to note :

(1) The Bill replaces the sustainability objectives currently in Art. 2 of the Basic Regulation of the Common Fisheries Policy (Regulation (EU) 1380/2013), making them objectives for the Fisheries Administrations or the Secretary of State.

(2) The objectives include the objective of securing that all UK fishing boats have equal access to UK waters. This is new.

(3) The Fisheries Administrations are required to publish a statement setting out the policies which would achieve or contribute to the achievement of those objectives. In addition, the Secretary of State is required to publish a statement setting out the policies that apply to England that achieve or contribute to the achievement of a number of objectives that apply only to the Secretary of State.

(4) The Fisheries Administrations are required to pursue the policies contained in the statements unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise.

(5) As expected for a Brexit Bill, when the UK leaves the EU, any access for EU and other foreign vessels to UK waters will be a matter for negotiation. The Bill revokes the EU legislation which currently provides for automatic rights for vessels registered in the EU to access UK waters. By revoking provisions in the Fishery Limits Act 1976, it removes the need to designate which countries’ vessels are able to fish in UK waters and introduces a new requirement that foreign vessels fishing in UK waters must be authorised to be in UK waters under international agreements or arrangements or must have a licence issued by a Fisheries Administration.

(6) The Bill revokes, replaces and clarifies existing powers for the Fisheries Administrations to license fishing in UK waters. For the most part, this is a consolidation of existing powers but the Bill makes several significant changes. It provides for equal access for UK vessels in UK waters by clarifying that licences issued by any Fisheries Administration are effective throughout UK waters. It also requires for the first time that foreign vessels are prohibited from fishing in UK waters unless they have a licence issued by a Fisheries Administration.

(7) As expected for a Brexit Bill, the Bill revokes EU legislation which currently sets UK fishing opportunities (quotas) and gives the Secretary of State powers to determine the UK’s fishing opportunities. Before doing so he must consult the other Fisheries Administrations. He must also make certain notifications, including a notification to Parliament.

(8) The Bill also introduces powers to enable annual fishing opportunities (quotas), which the Secretary of State can allocate to the English industry, to be sold to those in the English industry (attached to named English ports). This is new.