Fishing opportunities worth £5m to UK – and hope of a resolution in the Special Area licensing dispute

Defra has confirmed that a coastal states agreement between the UK and Faroe has been reached for 2023.

It claims that the UK has negotiated a well-balanced deal that will significantly benefit the UK industry, in particular the Scottish whitefish industry, and which makes sustainable use of resources at a UK level. The 2023 agreement provides around 2,500t of quota, worth around £5m, to the UK fleet.

The 2023 arrangements provide the UK fleet with greater flexibility to manage quota, and will relieve pressure in UK waters – particularly for Scottish fishers – now that industry have further fishing opportunities from this remaining deal of the annual fisheries negotiations for 2023,” said a department spokesperson.

England and Northern Ireland will benefit from the deal by receiving quota in Faroese stocks, providing fleets with the flexibility to manage their Faroese fishing opportunities or seek quota exchanges for other stocks.

In 2020, under the EU- Faroe bilateral agreement, it is estimated that the UK gained quota worth around £3m.

“As with last year, access entitlement for each country to fish their own pelagic quota in each other’s waters was not part of the deal, which has removed previous imbalances and relieved pressures on UK waters,” says the Defra spokesperson.

Fisheries minister Mark Spencer said: “As an independent coastal state, we have the power to secure deals which deliver better outcomes for both our fishermen and the marine environment.

“As part of annual negotiations for 2023, the UK has this week agreed a deal with the Faroese government that will see our fishing industry receiving over 2,500t of fishing opportunities worth around £5m, including commercially valuable species such as cod, haddock and saithe.”

On the issue of licensing third-country vessels to fish in the Special Area which lies between the north of Scotland and the Faroe Islands, the delegations noted the importance of a legally robust, bilaterally agreed system. The Special Area has been used by Russian vessels, targeting pelagic fish swapped to them by Faroe in exchange for Faroese opportunities for cod and haddock in the Russian EEZ. Much of this fish eventually finds its way into the UK, evading sanctions on Russian fish imposed as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.

The two parties noted the constructive dialogue between them on this issue, and said that they had developed an interim agreement – although it was accepted that further refinements may be required in 2023 to ensure the solution is legally robust and enforceable. They agreed to continue discussions with the aim of finalising arrangements by 31 September.

Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, welcomed the deal. “It’s less than last year in terms of financial value, but it’s welcome to the sector for a number of reasons,” he told Fishing News.

“One is that vessels which have lost most of the monkfish this year will now have an alternative place to go, and the creation of that alternative takes away the pressure from other pressure areas – so it’s welcome on a number of fronts.”

He said about 10 of the larger Scottish whitefish vessels normally fish at Faroe at different times of the year, although last year 14 licences were applied for. “I’m not sure how many applications there will be this year,” he said.

Commenting on the fact that the deal has taken such a long time to reach, he said one of the problems was that the Faroese government changed in December. “That created a bit of confusion and a lack of clarity over what’s going on in the grey zone,” he said

“There’s been a number of conversations between the UK and the Danish governments on the issues, so we’re glad that’s resolved and we can start fishing up there again.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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