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Marine / Failure to strike UK-Norway fishing deal ‘brings long-awaited end to past practice’, local chief says

LOCAL fisherman are putting a positive spin on the failure of the UK and Norway to reach an agreement on a fishing deal.

They said past agreements were brokered by the European Union and were heavily skewed against the local pelagic and demersal fleets.

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".
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins. Photo: Shetland News

Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief officer Simon Collins said: “This bring a long-awaited end to past practice in which the EU used to hand substantial amounts of Scottish quota to Norway largely to the benefit of a single foreign multinational that claimed to be English.”

The chief executive of UK Fisheries Jane Sandell, however, said it is a “very black day for Britain” and claimed that hundreds of fishermen would be left out of work as a result.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also said that fishing communities have been “betrayed by the prime minister” following Brexit.

The lack of a deal means UK fleets will not have access to Norway’s sub-Arctic seas, and Norwegian vessels won’t be able to fish in UK waters.

But in Shetland, the news that the countries are not continuing past agreements has been welcomed.

Collins said that “in practical terms, Norway’s loss of access to our waters this year will remove a substantial presence of their pelagic fleet during the autumn mackerel fishery in particular”.

SFA chairman and whitefish skipper James Anderson added that the inability of Norwegian vessels to fish for demersal stocks in the UK zone would lift the pressure of a highly active gillnet and longliner fleet to the east of Shetland.

“We are convinced that mutually advantageous annual agreements on access and quota transfers can be struck with Norway in the future,” he said.

“But Norway has to understand that we are not going to cave in, [European] Commission-style, to the detriment of Scottish businesses. It is far better to make that clear at the outset, and we are glad that this has been done.

“We appreciate the efforts of the highly influential Scottish negotiators, who worked closely with industry and listened carefully to our concerns throughout four months of very difficult talks.”

The trade talks come following the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU). Norway is not a member of the EU.

Chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Elspeth Macdonald said: “The failure to reach an agreement on fisheries between the UK and Norway for 2021 is disappointing, especially for our whitefish fleet, as Scottish and UK negotiators worked hard to make a fair and balanced offer to their Norwegian counterparts that would have been to both parties’ advantage for the rest of this year.

“It does however reflect that the UK’s new status as an independent coastal state has fundamentally changed the fisheries landscape in the north-east Atlantic, with both Faroe and Norway deciding not to have agreements with this UK this year, despite now having over-arching fisheries framework agreements with the UK.”