Following exit from the EU, the UK will continue to be subject to international law on fisheries management; this includes UNCLOS and UNFSA.
68. Under UNCLOS, Coastal states have jurisdiction over their EEZs (up to 200 miles offshore or the median line between Coastal States). The Coastal state has the right to exploit, develop, manage and conserve all the natural resources (including fish) found in the waters of the EEZ, and on the ocean floor and in the subsoil of its continental shelf. Contracting states must, however, coordinate/cooperate with other states where the same stock or stocks straddle two or more EEZs, the EEZ and the high seas, or where the stock is a highly migratory species, which is the case for virtually all stocks fished by the UK.
Both the EU and the UK are parties to this global agreement, a multilateral mixed agreement where each party owes separate obligations to the others.41 After exit, the UK will assume the rights and obligations currently exercised for it by the EU, including those related to fisheries.
UNCLOS is supplemented by UNFSA. Both the UK and the EU are Parties to UNFSA. Elaborating on UNCLOS provisions, UNFSA provides a more detailed framework for states to cooperate, either directly or through RFMOs, to ensure the conservation and management of fisheries resources within and beyond their EEZs. It covers straddling and highly migratory fish stocks.
In addition to such rules and standards, UN instruments including UN General Assembly resolutions on fisheries, the outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (‘Rio+20’ 2012) and Sustainable Development Goals (2015) contain political commitments, notably to fish sustainably, which are currently implemented through the CFP.
Bilateral Fisheries Agreements
The EU also has bilateral agreements with non-EU countries covering access and fishing opportunities. In the North Atlantic, the EU has fisheries agreements with Norway42 and the Faroe Islands43 on access and fishing opportunities. The agreement with Norway is the larger in terms of both the volume of fishing activity and the management of key stocks.
Fisheries Partnership Agreements
The EU also has a number of sustainable fisheries partnership agreements elsewhere, for example in Africa and the Indian Ocean. Under these agreements, the EU provides financial contributions (e.g. for sustainable development projects in the fisheries sector and to improvements governance structures in partner countries) in exchange for access to waters and fishing opportunities. The UK fishing industry benefits from these agreements to only a limited degree. The UK currently only have a direct interest in theagreement with Greenland.
In addition to fisheries access agreements, the EU is a party to trade and other agreements with a trade component both in the WTO context and bilaterally with certain countries and regions. In the last 15 years the EU has become more dependent on imports to meet its consumption of fish products (EU production covers only 44 per cent of the EU processors needs).45 Autonomous Tariff Rate Quotas (ATQs) ensure a steady supply of raw fish from third countries, duty free or subject to reduced duties, to the EU fish processing sector.
Sea fisheries is largely devolved. The CFP does not apply to the Crown Dependencies, Gibraltar or any of the Overseas Territories, but the Crown Dependencies fish as part of the UK fleet and have access to EU waters and land fish into EU ports.
Each Devolved Administration has control over its own commercial fishing fleets within a UK wide system. The Fisheries Concordat between the four Administrations deals with the management of the UK’s fish quotas and fishing vessel licensing.
The Crown Dependencies are not members of the EU and the CFP does not apply to them. However, certain aspects of EU law relating, in particular, to trade in goods and the Customs Union, do apply to the Crown Dependencies, as set out in Protocol 3 to the UK’s Treaty of Accession. The more detailed rules setting out conditions with respect to trade in agricultural products, including fisheries products, are set out in Regulation
Crown Dependency vessels are British-flagged and are treated as EU vessels when they land fish in an EU Member State (but only for that purpose). Although EU fisheries conservation measures do not apply directly to the Crown Dependencies under Protocol , they agree generally to comply with these under Fisheries Management Agreements (FMAs) with the UK. Under the terms of the FMAs, Crown Dependency catches of fish stocks to which the EU quota rules apply count against UK quota. The Crown Dependencies do not pay into or receive money from the EU, or UK, budgets, including the EMFF.
The CFP does not apply to the UK’s overseas territories (including Gibraltar). Overseas territories have quota free and duty free access to European markets for fish and fish products as well as preferential Rules of Origin and some direct financial assistance (Overseas Association Decision (2013/755). This is particularly beneficial for the Falkland Islands and Tristan da Cunha