Oceana warns UK and EU must ‘walk the talk’ if new Brexit deal is to protect fish stocks

Overall agreement still requires ratification on both sides

Press Release Date: December 24, 2020

Location: Brussels


Emily Fairless, Communications Officer | email: efairless@oceana.org | tel.: +32 478 038 490

Oceana welcomes the agreement between the EU and the UK in relation to fisheries as a positive first step for their shared marine ecosystem. Oceana also warns, however, that unless both sides set catch limits within sustainable levels for their more than 100 shared fish populations, overfishing may increase and the recovery progress achieved during the last decade will have been in vain. Oceana now expects the UK and the EU to walk the talk and live up to their ambition of leading globally on sustainable fisheries and healthy marine ecosystems.

Melissa Moore, Oceana’s head of UK policy, said: After months of tough and complex negotiations, it is welcome news that the EU and the UK have reached an agreement on fisheries, as our shared ecosystem needs a joint approach to management. The devil is now in the detail of the agreement and whether they have agreed to set catch limits in line with scientific advice and not undermine international law. Who gets the largest slice of the fish pie will soon become irrelevant if stocks are further overfished.”

Vera Coelho, Oceana’s Senior Director for Advocacy in Europe highlighted: Fisheries negotiations have been on the verge of sinking the whole EU-UK partnership agreement. Now that  an agreement has been reached, Oceana urges the EU and the UK to put an end to overfishing and jointly set management measures, catch limits included, that abide by the best available scientific advice. Overfishing will be destructive not only for the marine environment and the more than 100 fish populations shared among the EU and the UK, but also for the long-term socio-economic sustainability of the fishing sector on both sides of the Channel.”

Oceana’s position is that the EU and the UK must avoid a return to highly competitive fisheries rivalry. Instead they need to continue the positive trend of reversing overfishing, which still affects around 40% of fish populations in the North East Atlantic, down from 75% after a collaborative effort under the Common Fisheries Policy in the last decade.

Negotiations on catch limits for the more than 100 shared EU-UK fish populations for 2021 should start as soon as possible. Oceana advocates for Total Allowable Catch limits in line with scientific advice and set at or below Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) fishing rates – a scientifically determined number for the maximum fish catch that will allow fish populations to recover and reproduce. Specifically, Oceana is calling for the EU and the UK to jointly manage their shared stocks according to a common methodology and the advice of an independent, international and widely acknowledged scientific body, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), of which the UK, Norway and EU countries are members.

To ensure compliance and effectively monitor the impact of fishing activity on shared stocks exploited by the UK and the EU, they should soon establish joint control programmes, involving the European Fisheries Control Agency. Reciprocal access to waters and markets should be conditional on sustainability, transparency and legality of the fisheries concerned.

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For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact the Oceana team at Barley Communications:

Laura Harrison:
+44 7525 068378
+44 7949 607029

Learn more:

Oceana’s Recommendations for the EU-UK Fisheries Agreement

115 days before the cliff edge, post-Brexit fishing rules still up in the air

Oceana deplores lack of agreement on fisheries between UK and EU

Oceana calls on EU and UK to not lower environmental standards in any future fisheries agreement