The UK has announced today that it will pull out of the London Fisheries Convention (LFC) that allows foreign fisherman to access British waters. In a move to ‘take back control’ of our fishing industry. The move has been backed by the Scottish government, who host most of the UK’s fishing industry. But the move could prove costly to the UK’s fishing industry during Brexit negotiations and further the problems that will arise from coming out of the EU and subsequently the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

CFP was a controversial policy and was one of the more heavily cited reasons to leave the EU, however, the difficulties that will emerge from this were largely ignored by many prominent leavers and ‘taking back control’ was largely a myth.

CFP and the LFC

The policy was unsatisfactory when first introduced but the weaknesses were like that of other transnational fishing policies, there are no clear boundaries which makes it difficult to manage marine life. But last year it was reformed and is heading in the right direction, pulling out of any deal with the EU over the fishing industry will damage progress that has been made collectively. Without CFP and the deal to allow foreign fisherman in British waters, the UK will have to negotiate fishing agreements with member states separately. This would also include sensitive discussions between devolved British jurisdictions, as most stock migrates between British waters and elsewhere.

Any agreement between the EU and the UK should use CFP framework because there are too many benefits to stock sustainability within CFP. The risks created by pulling out of the London Fisheries Convention will also damage the British fishing industry’s ability to fish outside of British waters and policing would prove costly, environmentally damaging and politically sensitive.

International marine law does not provide the means to ensure compliance, which is a significant weakness. It is worth remembering that the UK has the second-best fishing industry in the EU And that this fishing policy has nothing to do with the EU itself.