Britain moves to control foreign fishing in its waters

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 02, 2017 8:57 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will withdraw from an agreement that allows some other European countries to fish between six and 12 miles from its coast as it "takes back control" of fishing policy, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said on Sunday.

The government will on Monday begin a two-year process to leave the London Fisheries Convention, an agreement dating from 1964, before Britain joined the European Union, that allows vessels from France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to fish in British waters.

"We will have control, we can decide the terms of access," Gove told the BBC Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

Gove, a prominent leave campaigners in the EU referendum, also said that once Britain left the trading bloc, it would be able to extend control of its waters to 200 miles, or to the median line between Britain and France or Britain and Ireland.

He said that leaving the London Fisheries Convention meant that for the first time in more than 50 years, Britain would be able to decide who could access its waters.

"This is a historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union - one which leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the UK," he said.

The government said an estimated 10,000 tonnes of fish was caught by vessels from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands in 2015 within 12 nautical miles of the British coast.

Ireland's minister for agriculture, food and the marine Michael Creed said the move was "unwelcome and unhelpful", but not surprising at the start of Brexit negotiations, including the common fisheries policy.

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"The Irish fishing fleet has access to parts of the UK six-12 mile zone, as has the UK fleet to parts of the Irish zone," he said. "These access rights were incorporated into the EU Common Fisheries Policy when we joined the EU."

The European Commission said it "took note", but also felt the convention had been superseded by EU law, the BBC reported.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Conor Humphries; Editing by Andrew Heavens)