Last Thursday, the UK Government published the determination of fishing opportunities for British fishing boats covering the period to 31 March this year. Licences have been issued for 2,750 tonnes of cod in the waters around Svalbard, which result from arrangements between the UK and Norway. The UK’s first annual bilateral negotiations with Norway will also be relevant to distant waters fishing, in particular with regard to Arctic cod.
Three weeks have passed since the transition ended and still the Hull trawler Kirkella is laid up in its home port unable to sail. The short licence the Secretary of State just mentioned to fish off Svalbard is for a fraction of the previous quota, which means it cannot operate viably, and still fishers’ jobs are at risk. We cannot lose Hull’s last link with its distant fleet fishing heritage, so I again ask: how much longer will they have to wait for a sensible and viable annual fishing quota for both the Norwegian zone and Svalbard?
It is not unusual for the annual fishing negotiations to go into January. This year, there has obviously been the very special circumstance that the withdrawal agreement came late, but in 2014 access was suspended while negotiations with Norway continued through January. We would anticipate that these negotiations would conclude within the next couple of weeks, and then access for Arctic cod, should that be agreed, could be resumed.