The EU was accused of sparking “35 years of decline” by British fishermen, who claimed overfishing by the bloc’s boats had crippled Cornwall’s businesses.
The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy was a big motivator behind British fishermen’s backing of Leave in the 2016 referendum. Edwin Hosking, landings co-ordinator for a Cornish seafood company called FalFish, hit out at Brussels, claiming they had left British fishermen with nothing but scraps. He told CBC in 2018: “I’ve been in this trade 35-plus years, and I’ve seen the decline because of the overfishing. “Not by our local boats, but because we’re being given scraps by Brussels, and we’ve seen the boats from France and Belgium come and take what they can take out of our own waters.”
According to NAFC Marine Centre’s data from 2016, UK vessels landed 32 percent of fish in its waters, while EU states combined to take 43 percent.
Norway, which is not an EU member state, took 21 percent.
EU member states have been allowed to dip into Britain’s wealth of landing under the Common Fisheries Policy, angering many fishermen north of the English Channel.
France is one of many nations dependent on British fishing grounds.
Between 2012 and 2016, for example, France caught 120,000 tonnes of fish worth £171million, according to Marine Management Organisation figures.
The huge amount of landing being claimed by boats from other countries has come as a result of the EU’s complex quota systems.
For example, Cornish fishermen have been limited to eight percent of the cod quota in their own waters, while the French can catch 73 percent.
One fisherman told CBC that this made his job “incredibly difficult”.
David Stevens, who runs a trawler in Newlyn Harbour, said at the time: “We leave the harbour here to take 25 different species, and each one has a different quota level.
“And the U.K. has very little quota for quite a few of those species, so trying to manage the catch is just unbelievably difficult.”
He added that former Prime Minister Edward Heath sold the fishing fleet out back in 1973, when he gave European boats access to British waters as the price of admission to the EU.
Mr Stevens said: “It was sold out to get into the EU, and it’s being sold out to get out of the fleet, it’s unbelievable.”
While Brexit talks have stalled amid the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has maintained that the UK will take back control of its waters despite threats from the EU.
Brussels’ chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has demanded that the conditions of the Common Fisheries Policy be preserved.
He said earlier this year: “Let me remind you that most of the British processed fisheries products are traded, are exported, are sent to us, to the European market.
“So fisheries is part of a package as regards our trade relations, which are to be discussed, and that package is one you can’t break up. There will be no ambiguity at all around that.”
Defiance is just as strong in the UK however, as Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said that permanent concessions to the EU would be a “betrayal”.