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Future of fishing dependent on Brexit

Fishermen at Amble Harbour.
Fishermen at Amble Harbour.

‘I’m quite excited, but it all depends on Brexit’ – that’s one view from Northumberland on the Government’s proposals for the future of fishing.

Earlier this month, the Government published its White Paper, Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations, as the UK makes preparations for becoming an independent coastal state outside the European Union.

It is described as ‘a blueprint for a sustainable and profitable fishing industry that will regenerate coastal communities and support future generations of fishermen’.

At the quarterly meeting of the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA), chairman Les Weller said: “I’m quite excited about the White Paper, but when you read it, it’s Mr Gove’s (Environment Secretary) wishlist and it all depends on what happens in the next year with Brexit.”

For example, he referred to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF): “It’s something we are all benefiting from so we need to know where we stand when we leave.”

Mr Weller reported that Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell had raised this issue during the fisheries debate, pointing out that the EMFF will allocate more than £250million to UK fishing communities by 2020 and asking if the Treasury has guaranteed that money after we leave.

Mr Gove responded: “Yes it has. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made it clear that EMFF funding, which is committed before we leave the European Union, will continue to be paid.”

Mr Weller also highlighted that there were a number of mentions in the paper of recreational angling, which was important in Northumberland given its reliance on tourism.

Chief executive Mike Hardy, who described the Government’s aspiration as ‘admirable’, said: “It’s looking at more fishery operations in the inshore area, which is significant for our part of the world.

“It shouldn’t be seen in isolation, because there will also be other considerations including the marine environment (much of which is governed by the European Commission).

“It’s too early to give my views save for it has received a mixed response. But we do need something because we are leaving the European Union.

“It’s fascinating what’s going to happen in the days and months ahead, although some may find it scary.”

Members agreed that NIFCA should makes its own response to the consultation, over and above any national association comments. This response will be approved at an extraordinary meeting next month.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service