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Marine / Fisheries agreement between UK and Norway welcomed

A LOCAL fishing leader has welcomed a new fisheries agreement signed by the UK and Norway.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said it is “very much in line with standard practice and highlights the unreasonable nature of the EU’s ambitions”.

Shetland Fishermen's Association executive officer Simon Collins said the white paper's "headline points are precisely what we have insisted on from day one".Simon Collins, executive officer of the SFA. Photo: Shetland News

The agreement, which will come into force on 1 January, allows the parties to agree on the exchange fishing quotas as well as mutual access to each other’s areas of fisheries jurisdiction.

Arrangements for reciprocal fishing access and the exchange of fishing quotas will be made through annual fishing agreements.

The UK Government say the deal is the “first as an independent coastal state in 40 years”.

The UK is set to leave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy at the end of December. Norway is not a member of the EU.

Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said it was a “major step in our progress to becoming an independent coastal state capable of striking our own deals on behalf of our own fishermen”.

“The days of EU bureaucrats in Brussels making all the decisions are over,” he said.

“This agreement is particularly significant for our coastal communities which have been yearning for the opportunity to rebuild our fishing industry and bring back well-paid jobs to areas which desperately need them.”

The Guardian, meanwhile, has reported that catches of EU fishermen could be phased down between 2021 and 2024 to offer time for European coastal communities to adapt to the changes.

It says that this transition period features in a new negotiating paper tabled ahead of the current round of negotiations in Brussels between the UK and the EU.

In response, Collins said it is “all very interesting, but it doesn’t cover the key point in all of this, which is the UK’s insistence on sovereignty and controlling access to its waters”.

“For the fishing industry, this is the fundamental point. It’s what separates independent coastal states from colonies. 

“We’ve always said that once UK control is accepted and agreed, we’d be perfectly willing to sit down and discuss such matters as a managed adjustment in quota shares, for example.

“Being uncompromising on the fundamental point doesn’t mean a refusal to look at other issues – such as a transition arrangement – once that is agreed. 

“Put another way, we are insisting on the UK’s right to decide who catches what, where and when in its own waters. Once that is agreed we are open to discuss how fairer quota shares might be achieved, for example, and over what period.”

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