George Eustice grilled on securing ‘sensible’ fishing quotas
The Kirkella, which belongs to Hull-based UK Fisheries Ltd, is preparing to head north to do some fishing off Svalbard after weeks moored up without being able to sail as a result of the expiration of existing agreements with the individual countries which came as part of EU membership. However, UK Fisheries spokesman Trevor Datson told Express.co.uk whatever catch they managed to land, it would only be a drop in the ocean – while stressing time was running out.
Referring to the trip, he explained: “Does that mean the danger to distant waters fishing is over? Not at all, unfortunately. This trip is a sticking plaster.
“Yes, we have a license for this trip, but this isn’t anything like enough to keep distant waters fishing afloat.
“It’s about 10 percent of what we would have been allowed to fish under the pre-Brexit regime.”
Kirkella’s operations have been severely impact by Boris Johnson’s deal
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary
It’s like telling a farmer he can work, but only for three days a month
As a result, UK Fisheries was about 90 percent worse off than it had been at this time last year, Mr Datson said.
He added: “We can do a single trip on the quota we have been given, but as it’s less than 1/10th of what we would normally have to fish for a whole year, we will be back at square one when we return and have to wait for an answer on the Norwegian quota negotiations.
“It’s like telling a farmer he can work, but only for three days a month.”
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Boris Johnson signed his deal in December
Previously the Kirkella would have been able to set sail with the crew safe in the knowledge that they could fish in either Norwegian or Svalbard waters for what is essentially the same fish – but which might turn out to be closer to the Norwegian coastline at this time of year.
However, the absence of an arrangement with Norway in the deal which Boris Johnson signed in December meant this was not currently an option.
Mr Watson said: “We need to make operational decisions about where the fish is at this time of year; where the crews are and how we bring them in and quarantine them pre-sailing.
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Kirkella next to Tower Bridge last year
Svalbard is an island west of Norway
“If we knew that we had continued access to Norwegian quota we would be out there right now.
“So nothing has fundamentally changed. We need a deal with Norway, and it has to happen soon.”
In a blog posted on the company’s website earlier this month, Sir Barney White-Spunner, chairman of the advisory board of UK Fisheries, wrote: “The EU deal is done, but for English distant-waters fishing the future is anything but certain.
“Will the Government do the deals needed to keep our crews at work in 2021? Does it intend to?
“As of now we don’t know when, or even if, we will be able to put to fish off Norway, our main fishing ground for decades.”
“Without individual bilateral deals on quotas with Greenland, the Faroes and especially Norway, there is no long-term viable distant-waters fishing industry in the UK from January 1.
“We may be able to scrape by for a few weeks fishing off Svalbard, but that alone can’t keep the industry afloat.
Kirkella is sailing for Svalbard in the next 48 hours
“And as far as we can tell we’re the only business in the UK fishing industry whose very existence has been put in jeopardy by such avoidable government inaction.”
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “It’s not unusual for fishing negotiations in the annual negotiations to go into January.
“This year there’s obviously been the very special circumstance that the Withdrawal Agreement came late but in 2014 access was suspended while negotiations with Norway continued through January.
“We would anticipate that these negotiations would conclude within the next couple of weeks and then access for Arctic cod, should that be agreed in the agreement, could be resumed.”