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Britain must commit to an upper fishing limit in Brexit talks, Carrie Symonds’ NGO demands

Britain must commit to a sustainable fishing limit in Brexit talks, the Prime Minister’s partner’s charity has demanded.

Oceana, a Bloomberg-owned organisation which campaigns for less polluted and overfished oceans, has urged the UK to commit to a Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) in its fisheries deals with the EU so stocks don’t collapse.

Boris Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds, a senior advisor for the NGO, has frequently called for more marine protections and sustainable fishing.

When she joined Oceana she said she was excited to “reform local and industrial fishing”, adding:  “The ocean was seen as an inexhaustible source of fish but 90% of fish stocks are now depleted or exploited. So it’s vital we have more marine reserves NOW.”  

The maximum fish limits, set by scientists, would be agreed by both sides and enable the populations of marine creatures to thrive.

The EU already has MSY enshrined in its own laws for the waters of member states, but the British government is said to be concerned that setting fishing limits could be detrimental to economies of towns which rely on angling. Government ministers have argued for an alternative called Zonal Attachment, instead of fixed quota shares. 

Under this principle, the EU and UK would attempt to work out what percentage of agreed shared stocks are attached to each of their EEZs. They would then be allocated quotas in line with that percentage. 

Given the size of the UK’s EEZ, it is thought that this would leave the UK with a much higher quota share than it receives based on the current ‘relative stability’ principle. Conservationists call Zonal Attachment “a recipe for overfishing”.

The access of British boats to EU waters and vice versa is currently being hammered out in talks, expected to be finalised later in summer.

Currently, the North Atlantic is 46 per cent overfished, meaning that some stocks are at risk of collapsing.

Melissa Moore, senior policy advisor for Oceana, explained: “If they don’t commit to this upper catch limit then really it indicates that the UK wants to continue to overfish, which is quite surprising as they were the ones who fought for it in the EU legislation back in 2013.

“What scientists have done is set a MSY – if we don’t have a clear commitment then it is quite worrying. The reason they haven’t, we think is there are some fish they are worried they could have impacts on the local community if they bring it into MSY. But if the fish stock collapses you’re down to zero quota which would be worse.”

The environment secretary, George Eustice has previously said that the UK should set an example for sustainable fishing after Brexit. 

Ms Moore said that Defra’s reluctance to set fishing limits shows “they are not going down that route”, adding: “This is really one of the first indications – the government has previously said they are going to lead the world in sustainability and not renege on environmental commitments they’ve made through the EU.”

Defra has been contacted for comment.

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