The European Union said it has reached a fisheries deal with the UK on their shared stocks, but environmentalists insisted that even after Brexit takes hold, fish will continue to be over-exploited.
The agreement stood apart from the spat between France and Britain over licences for French fishermen to operate off the UK’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 UK 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 Joze Podgorsek of Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency.
The UK’s Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said the deal “provides a strong foundation as we seek to deliver more sustainable fisheries management”.
Even if a political fight was avoided, 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 prioritise short-term commercial interests over long-term sustainability for both fish and fishers — perpetuating the dire state of these depleted stocks.”
She said iconic stocks such as cod in the Celtic Sea and west of Scotland would continue to hover 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 over-exploited in 2022.”