After months of wrangling, the European Union and the United Kingdom announced Wednesday that they have struck a fishing deal on their shared stocks — though environmentalists said fish will continue to be overexploited under the new post-Brexit rules.
The agreement is separate from from the spat between France and Britain over licenses for French fishermen to operate off the U.K.’s crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey, which hug the French coast.
Wednesday’s decision reverts back to last year’s trade deal between France and the U.K. and sets catch quotas and rights for about 100 shared fish stocks in each other’s waters.
“Thanks to goodwill and a constructive approach on both sides, we were able to reach an agreement that provides certainty for EU fishermen and women going forward,” said Minister Jože Podgoršek of Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency.
U.K. Environment Secretary George Eustice said the deal “provides a strong foundation as we seek to deliver more sustainable fisheries management.”
While the agreement avoids a political fight over the economically minor but symbolically loaded fishing sector, environmental groups insisted it came at the cost of fish.
ClientEarth expert Jenni Grossmann said “just like in pre-Brexit times, they have continued to prioritize short-term commercial interests over long-term sustainability for both fish and fishers — perpetuating the dire state of these depleted stocks.”
She said such iconic stocks like cod in the Celtic Sea and West of Scotland would continue to linger on the brink of commercial extinction.
Vera Coelho of the group Oceana said “certain fish populations, like West of Scotland herring, Irish Sea whiting or Celtic Sea cod, will continue to be overexploited in 2022.”