European fisheries law after Brexit

North Sea fishing faces an uncertain future, according to a new book.

Access to Norwegian fishing waters is important to EU member states and the UK. In the new book Fisheries and the Law in Europe. Regulation After Brexit, co-edited with Tafsir Matin Johansson, John A. Skinner, and Mitchell Lennan, I look at the consequences of Brexit for fisheries in Norway, the EU, and the UK.

Fisheries was the main challenge in achieving the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement announced on Christmas Eve 2020. No parties were satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations, and annual negotiations between these parties regarding the allowable amount of fishing will take until 2026.

Bilateral and trilateral fisheries consultations have been ongoing between Norway, the UK, and the EU. Unfortunately, no agreement between the UK and Norway was in sight as of 2021.

A mutual zonal access for British and Norwegian vessels to fish a maximum of 30,000 tonnes was nonetheless reached for 2022 for demersal/whitefish stocks in the North Sea. The same entitlement applies to the Exclusive Economic Zone of both countries. Specifically, UK vessels have been granted access to 17,000 tonnes of Norwegian Spring Spawning herring North of 62°N in Norway, while Norwegian vessels have been granted access to 17,000 tonnes of North Sea herring in the British North Sea.

The future of fisheries in the Arctic and the North Sea

The situation surrounding the development of fisheries cooperation and management regimes in the North-East Atlantic between the UK, EU, and Norway is unpredictable.

The Arctic Council has enhanced cooperation on fisheries, conservation, resource management, as well as the fight against climate change and pollution since 1996.  The latest achievements include the Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Agreement, a multilateral agreement ratified by some of the member countries of the Arctic Council plus the EU, China, Japan, and South Korea, that entered into force in June 2021.

The convention bans unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas areas of the Central Arctic Ocean and establishes a joint scientific and monitoring research programme on ecosystems and fish stocks.

However, tensions could mount due to the turbulent political situation between NATO member states and Russia regarding Ukraine, and cooperation may now be at risk.

Only time will tell what the future brings and how the relations between the UK and the EU will progress towards a mutual understanding on fisheries.

Moreover, international tensions derived from Brexit or territorial disputes could increase in the future, affecting sensitive areas such as Arctic fishing. We can only hope for mutual understanding and cooperation between the states concerned to achieve positive results that secure fishing stocks for future generations.

Published 24. March 2022

You can also see all news here.