The UK is now entering into a period of annual fisheries negotiations to agree fishing opportunities and access to waters for the 2021 fishing year. We will be doing that as an independent coastal state for the first time in over 40 years. It is an important milestone as we leave the Common Fisheries Policy, and one which warrants this update to the House.
Our aim across all annual fisheries negotiations will be to work closely with our counterparts in the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments to secure the best outcomes for the whole of the UK fishing industry and for our marine environment.
We will be participating in a range of annual fisheries negotiations. The UK will be taking its seat at the coastal states negotiations for key pelagic species; participating in multilateral organisations like the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), which we have already joined along with the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), and conducting our own bilateral negotiations to set 2021 opportunities and agree access to waters for next year with partners like Norway, the Faroe Islands, and the EU.
With Norway and the Faroe Islands, we have already agreed new fisheries frameworks to underpin bilateral negotiations and the former has already been signed and laid before the House. We are seeking to negotiate a fisheries framework agreement with the EU. This is proving a difficult negotiation and the UK and EU positions are very far apart, principally because the EU has not yet accepted the implications of our future status as an independent coastal state. Negotiations are continuing and updates will be shared with the House as available.
In all fisheries negotiations we will ensure that our actions are founded on the best available scientific advice. We will aim to deliver sustainability improvements—safeguarding our natural marine assets for future generations. Our landmark Fisheries Bill enshrines in legislation the Government’s commitment to sustainable fishing, and it is right that we make this a cornerstone of our negotiating positions.
Through the negotiations we will look to support our vital UK fishing industry, not only through securing additional quotas but also by continuing to support the elimination of illegal and harmful discarding. Again, our UK-wide approach will ensure we consider the needs of the fishing industries of all devolved nations, and the Crown Dependencies, in negotiations.
Finally, and underpinning all our negotiations, we will be seeking to maximise the benefits of our new status as an independent coastal State. We will decide who can access UK waters to fish and on what terms; and we will negotiate access for UK fleets to fish in other countries’ waters on terms that suit us. Through friendly cooperation as sovereign equals, we will improve management of shared fish stocks with benefits for the wider marine environment and the long-term future of the UK fishing industry.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords