Today and tomorrow, the EU member states are negotiating in Brussels on the allocation of next year’s fishing quotas. These are special negotiations because it is not yet clear how many fish European fishermen are allowed to catch in British waters. Dutch fishermen in particular catch a large part of their fish there.
The annual agreements on the allocation of fishing quotas among the various countries apply exceptionally only for three months. As long as there is uncertainty as to whether and to what extent fishing can take place in the waters of the United Kingdom after 1 January, there is no point in looking forward any longer.
Any agreements on reciprocal fishing rights between the UK and the EU are part of the talks on a new trade relationship after the brexit. These include the question of how far EU fishermen have access to the UK’s ‘exclusive economic zone’ and how many fish they are allowed to catch there. The exclusive economic zone is a 370 km stretch off the coast of a country in which that country is entitled to the fish and raw materials available.
The annual negotiations with Norway, which is not a member of the European Union, have not yet been concluded. There is therefore still a lot of uncertainty, especially in and around the North Sea.
For a number of species, the proposal is on the table that the quotas for this year should be extended to the new year after 1 January until the negotiations with the UK and Norway have been concluded. In that case, the consequences for Dutch fishermen are limited.
Otherwise, if, as a result of a new trade agreement or a no-deal brexit, the fishing rights of European fishermen in British waters are largely or entirely lost. In that case, Dutch fishing is seriously affected. Dutch fishermen catch 60% of the fish in the UK exclusive economic zone.
According to a relevant diplomat, if Dutch and other EU fishermen no longer have access to British fish, there is a risk of overfishing in the EU’s coastal waters. More fishermen will want to catch enough fish to make ends meet in a more restricted area.
However, this does not mean that the Netherlands is asking for more fishing rights off the coast of other EU member states for the next three months. First, the outcome of the Brexit negotiations is awaited. The really exciting and perhaps difficult negotiations on fishing quotas for the Netherlands begin afterwards.