This week the UK’s first major domestic fisheries legislation in nearly forty years passed into law as the Fisheries Bill received Royal assent following its ten-month transition through Parliament.
The Fisheries Act 2020 gives the UK full control of its fishing waters for the first time since 1973, ending the current automatic rights for EU vessels to fish in UK waters. It enables the UK to control fishing activity through a new foreign vessel licensing regime.
“This is a huge moment for the UK fishing industry. This is the first domestic fisheries legislation in nearly forty years, and we will now take back control of our waters out to 200 nautical miles or the median line,” stated Environment Secretary George Eustice.
“The Fisheries Act makes clear our intention to continue to operate on the world stage as a leading, responsible, independent coastal state. We will protect our precious marine environment, whilst ensuring a fairer share of fishing opportunities for UK fishermen. By swiftly responding to the latest scientific advice and needs of our fishing industries we will secure a thriving future for our coastal communities.”
The Fisheries Act allows the Government to fund a range of fisheries projects, for instance to encourage the uptake of new technologies at sea, improve port infrastructure, and support recreational sea angling.
“The Fisheries Act marks another crucial milestone as we embark on a new journey as an independent coastal State,” commented Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis.
The Fisheries Act aims to equip Devolved Administrations with greater fisheries management powers, enabling each administration will tailor its approach based on the specific needs of their industries and waters.
It sets out that negotiation with other countries is crucial in managing shared stocks, as sustainable catches cannot be achieved through UK action alone, and the UK government claims that the Fisheries Act goes further than the Common Fisheries Policy by ensuring further action will be taken to minimise the fishing sector’s impact on climate change, such as by developing policies to reduce emissions for instance from fishing vessels or encourage decarbonisation.