No trade barriers after Brexit “essential” to Welsh fishing industry

(Title Image: National Assembly of Wales)

Environment Committee
The impact of Brexit on fisheries in Wales (pdf)
Published: 16th October 2018

“Non-tariff barriers could be a killer blow to an industry already under pressure and which suffers from an unfair quota share from the UK Government.

“Access to EU markets is essential if these businesses are to survive, while the Welsh Government must fight for a fairer share for Wales and develop an ambitious forward-thinking strategy if the sector is to thrive.”

– Committee Chair, Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East)

1. Wales needs a “focused and ambitious” fishing strategy

Fisheries is currently a devolved matter, though a UK replacement for the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy CFP) is being developed by the UK Government via a Fisheries Bill. Witnesses said there was a risk the voice of the Welsh fishing industry, owing to its small size, may be drowned out in any discussions.

Nevertheless, there was a general view in the Welsh fishing industry that the CFP hasn’t benefited Wales at all. Quotas set at a UK level (less than 1% of the UK’s fishing quota and 0.02% of the EU’s is allocated to Wales) have also led to Wales having a “small, dilapidated fleet with a lack of re-investment”. They called for a bespoke Welsh fisheries policy, but they were concerned about a lack of capacity in and lack of engagement by the Welsh Government.

The Committee called for the Welsh Government to clarify its position as quickly as possible and that any new strategy should maintain environmental standards; a number of witnesses called for sustainable management of fishing stocks to be on the face of any new fisheries laws.

2. The next 12 weeks are deemed to be critical

The Committee made a number of calls for the Welsh Government to report back to them on several issues within 12 weeks (by the end of the first week of January 2019).

Their demands included: an engagement programme with the fishing industry, an assessment of their capacity to make fisheries policy and how to increase domestic demand for Welsh fish and shellfish.

3. Tariff-free EU access is more important than water access

Most fish and shellfish caught in Welsh waters are exported to the EU; tariff-free trade was deemed to be more important to the Welsh fishing industry than maintaining access to EU waters – the latter of which the Welsh fishing fleet is generally unable to do anyway due to the size of its vessels. However, the Centre for Public Policy (CPP) suggests 70% of the Welsh quota is caught in Irish territorial waters.

Milford Haven Port Authority raised the possibility of the Welsh fleet expanding in the future as 70% of fish landed at Welsh ports came from non-UK fleets. Also, the CCP suggested that if a “zonal attachment” (using the number of landings in a nation’s territorial waters to calculate stocks and quotas) were applied to Wales after Brexit, the Welsh quota could increase by 170%+. Needless to say, this would have to be balanced against environmental and marine conservation efforts.

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