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Fisheries

June 2016 - June 2017

Summary

The key EU policy is the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (2013), which sets out the management framework across Europe. There is therefore currently no UK fisheries legislation for offshore fisheries. It remains unclear what will replace the EU policy framework once the UK leaves the EU, or how action to conserve shared marine resources will be co-ordinated. Initial indications suggest a desire to maintain elements of the CFP.

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Principles & strategies
Given fisheries policy is currently an EU competence, new domestic legislation will be needed and it is currently unclear whether the Repeal Bill can cover every aspect of the Common Fisheries Policy. Legislation must set out the principles and strategy for managing UK fisheries. Ministers have indicated that principles of sustainability and the ending of discarding will be continued, but it has yet to be seen what these provisions will look like in detail.
Legislation

The government’s stated goal in the Great Repeal Bill White Paper is to “ensure that the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in domestic law”. This broad commitment is reassuring, yet it is stated elsewhere that the bill will only convert EU law into domestic law “wherever practical and sensible”, and it is not yet clear whether this could create gaps in environmental protections.

There is currently no information on whether new fisheries legislation is needed to replace the Common Fisheries Policy, or whether the Repeal Bill will be enough. In whatever format the legislation comes forward, it is important that key principles are included in the emerging legislation and that there are effective processes in place to facilitate shared management both within and beyond the UK. 

Capacity & funding

Civil service capacity is limited, with Defra due to see a 15% reduction in its resource spending between 2015 and 2020, although Defra has drafted in several new members of staff to assist the Brexit negotiations and domestic reform teams. There remains a concern that fisheries is being treated separately from marine protection and conservation (led by different ministers) which could lead to a lack of coherence between these intrinsically linked areas, but there is some evidence of trying to join up the two areas, with a representative of the Defra marine team joining the April fisheries sectoral meeting.

Governance
It is important that there are clear opportunities for transparent and effective stakeholder engagement at UK level as the government negotiates departure from the EU. After the UK has exited the EU, there need to be appropriate processes in place that allow for effective stakeholder engagement and the co-ordination of management across the UK. Advisory group meetings have been set up by Defra and held monthly alongside sector meetings to help inform the development of future fisheries policy. Defra is also planning on rolling out a coastal tour to canvass opinions from those affected by changes.
Co-operation
There is continued engagement in current Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) regional structures such as Advisory Councils, as the CFP continues to apply to the UK until it leaves the EU. Beyond that, effective engagement in appropriate regional structures should be in place with transparent stakeholder engagement, but there is currently no indication as to how this will be delivered. There is little evidence of the UK and devolved administrations working together on final outcomes.