Even with the great uncertainty about what will happen after any deal to leave the EU the Government still needs to put in place alternative arrangements. So it was that the Fisheries Bill passed its first stages in the Commons last week as Ministers seek a new framework for managing UK fisheries. Despite promises to take back control of UK waters and of access to the fish that swim in them, it is clear that foreign access by licence or annual agreement will continue into the future.
There’s more to fishing than catching fish. Fishermen need to sell their catch and most of the prawns landed at North Shields go off to the European market. Then there’s the ports, the infrastructure and the jobs. Being in the Common Fisheries Policy has given access to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, £192 million over 6 years for the UK, mainly grants for infrastructure. It’s important for North Shields where the Projection Jetty needs investment.
The Government plans to give fishing ports access to the Coastal Communities Fund. The fund is a successor to Sea Change, a fund set up after some of us persuaded the then Labour Government that action was needed to regenerate seaside and coastal towns. Those funds have helped to pay, in part, for our local regeneration. My concern is that in the future, seaside towns will be pitched against fishing ports for ever diminishing resources, satisfying neither.