DEFRA’s top minister has assured the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation that fisheries will be ‘a key area in the EU exit negotiations’.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State at DEFRA, says Brexit will be ‘a once in a generation chance to regenerate UK fishing grounds and improve the conditions under which they are fished’.

She told the SFF: “We are currently analysing all EU fisheries legislation. No decision has yet been made on the extent to which the EU legislation governing the Common Fisheries Policy will be incorporated into domestic law.

“However, as we leave, we will look to disapply the key elements of the CFP that are most unpopular and unworkable for the UK as a coastal state, including those on mutual access and EU-level quota setting. It is essential that we take the opportunity to develop a fisheries regime that is better suited to our seas and industries.”

She also says the government ‘is considering the issue of the London Fisheries Convention carefully, to ensure we have full control of UK waters after we leave the EU and, as the Prime Minister said on 29 March 2017, we hope to be able to say something on this point soon’.

Ms Leadsom’s comments are made in a letter to SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong, and follow a meeting with the SFF on 21 March.

She confirms that as an independent coastal state outside the EU, the UK would be fully responsible, under international law, for control of the waters in its EEZ and for the management of resources within it. She says the government will champion sustainable fisheries and is ‘committed to ongoing co-operation with other countries over the management of shared stocks and ending discards’.

She spells out five principles to provide a framework under which future farming, fisheries and food policies will be developed – global demand, productivity and competitiveness, sustainability, resilience and trust.

For the seafood sectors, the minister says:

● We will take full advantage of trade opportunities to drive global demand, and support the UK’s seafood trade with the EU and beyond.
● We will be at the forefront of innovation, excellent science, the application of technology and development of skills, with a productive and competitive food supply chain as part of our industrial strategy.
● We want sustainable fisheries and an improved marine environment, which are essential to support a more sustainable seafood supply chain.
● We want our fishing and seafood sectors, including everyone from commercial fishermen, aquaculture producers, fish processors and recreational anglers, to all those who depend on them, particularly in coastal communities, to be resilient to the many natural and financial challenges facing them. We want to see thriving and profitable sectors building their self-reliance.
● Our fisheries and seafood sectors must be trusted around the world to provide safe food, traceability through data collection, and the assurance that we are fishing sustainably.

The minister says she has ‘greatly welcomed’ the input from stakeholder groups and asks for this to continue. “I have asked my officials to step up the level of engagement with stakeholders over the coming weeks and months on the future of fisheries,” she tells the SFF.

“I hope this reassures you of the commitment that I and my department have in ensuring we deliver the best possible outcome for the UK fishing industry as we leave the EU.”

SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “Any reading of this letter in full makes it clear that the UK government is committed to ensuring we exit the CFP and re-assert control of our waters.

“In fact, at our meeting with Ms Leadsom in March she said that we are leaving the EU and we are leaving the CFP. It is evident that the government shares the determination of the entire industry to seize this opportunity to re-generate our coastal communities.”

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