Fisheries Bill [HL]: Briefing for Lords Stages

This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the second reading of the Fisheries Bill [HL], scheduled to take place on 11 February 2020.

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The UK will no longer be part of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) at the end of the withdrawal agreement transition (or implementation) period, set to finish on 31 December 2020. From then on, the UK will control access to its own fishing waters. The bill would set a framework for managing fisheries in the UK once the CFP no longer applies. It would:

  • Require the national fisheries authorities for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to produce a joint fisheries statement setting out how they intend to achieve the fisheries objectives defined in the bill. The statement would be underpinned by fisheries management plans that would have to comply with requirements relating to sustainable levels of fishing.
  • End automatic rights for EU vessels to access British fishing waters and introduce a license requirement for foreign fishing vessels.
  • Replace existing powers for UK licensing authorities to license fishing vessels in UK waters.
  • Allow the secretary of state to determine catch and effort quotas for British fishing boats, in line with the UK’s international obligations to determine its fishing opportunities—for example, under a future fisheries agreement with the EU.
  • Allow the sale of rights to English and Welsh “catch quotas” or “effort quotas” for a year.
  • Enable a discard prevention charging scheme to be introduced in England.
  • Enable financial assistance schemes to be established in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to replace the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

The bill is similar to the Fisheries Bill introduced in the 2017–19 session, although some clauses have been redrafted. It also includes new fisheries objectives, the requirement for fisheries management plans and additional powers for the devolved authorities.

The UK and the EU are expected to start negotiating a new fisheries agreement, which they aim to conclude by 1 July 2020. The EU is seeking continued reciprocal access to fishing waters and stable quota shares for the amount of fish that can be caught. The UK argues British fishing waters should primarily be for British fishing vessels, and opportunities for EU vessels should be negotiated annually on the basis of scientific data about sustainable catch levels, not based on historic quotas.

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