How does Brexit influence European fishermen?

Belgium is one of the EU countries that is feeling the effect of Brexit the most on fisheries issues. Before the UK’s withdrawal, Belgian fishermen caught 43% of their fish in British waters. Now, they must reduce their catches by 25% in the next 5 years, as stipulated in the trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

“We are used to landing our fish in British ports and trucking it to Belgian auctions for sale, but that is something that, due to bureaucracy, is no longer possible to organize. We are looking for possibilities and fishing grounds, both British and EU, which we normally use later in the year, because we don’t want to risk keeping our fresh fish in the UK, ”says Emiel Brouckaert, Executive Director of the Belgian fishing association Rederscentrale.

The British, for their part, also complain that the fish is spoiled by not being able to deliver it on time in some European markets, so they say they are also disappointed with the quota agreement.

According to Barrie Deas, Chief Executive, National Federation of Fisheries Companies, “Small fish sellers are agreeing to make their purchases jointly, but they face red tape. The sale and export of fish to the European Union is one of the immediate problems to which is added the impossibility of exchanging species with other countries. In fact, in reference to some species we will have less quota in 2021 than in 2020 ”.

The European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) jointly manages the territorial waters of all members and establishes fishing quotas for each state according to the species available. Among the countries that will suffer the most from the loss of fishing rights due to Brexit are, in addition to Belgium, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Provisional fishing licenses in UK waters are in effect for the first quarter. But this Monday, the EU Fisheries Ministers are negotiating the exact catch quotas for 2021. Some financial aid will also be discussed.

“It’s about finding a balance between the preservation of fishing grounds and the well-being of fishing communities. A budget reserve for Brexit adjustments must also be approved to help mitigate the impacts on the fishing sector and fish farming. But we must not forget that financial support for these already complex issues is now even more difficult due to the pandemic ”, says Ricardo Serrão Santos, Minister of Fisheries of Portugal.

The EU has planned at least 5 billion euros to help some 180,000 European fishermen adapt to the new situation, even seeking new professional paths.