Following the third reading and votes on the new Fisheries Bill this week, I wanted to update constituents about the access of large trawling vessels to our waters and the Fisheries Bill itself. As the MP for Mid-Sussex, I believe it is vital to protect our varied natural environments which make Sussex and the UK so special, including our beautiful beaches and ecosystems in our seas. I have previously already raised the concerned thoughts of constituents on the matter of the Sussex Near Shore Trawling Byelaw with my colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
I very much welcome the work Greenpeace is undertaking to highlight this issue. I know the Government and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are acutely aware of the situation, however I would again like to reassure you I share your concern about the protection and health of British waters and I am fully aware of the impact that super trawlers have on marine life. Our waters are a precious natural resource and they must be managed carefully. The future of the communities that earn their livelihoods from the sea and the biodiversity of the ocean depends on a balanced and considered approach to fisheries management.
I hope you will be pleased the Fisheries Bill will tackle the issue of supertrawlers who are responsible for significant overfishing and bottom trawling in our waters. The access of trawlers to UK waters is of significant concern to local fishing communities and to those working to protect British waters and the Fisheries Bill will provide the Government with powers to licence foreign vessels in UK waters. Foreign vessels, including trawlers and supertrawlers, will have no automatic right of access to the UK’s waters in the future. Any vessel granted access to British waters will also be required to abide by UK rules, including on sustainability.
I too am passionate about protecting the environment and am proud to have been the whip in charge in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for 9 months in the previous Parliament. during which time, I also assisted with the initiation of the Fisheries Bill itself.
Fishing is a key part of our heritage as an island nation. The injustices felt by so many concerning the limitations of the common fisheries policy loomed large in the debate over our decision to leave the EU. The Bill seizes on the opportunities leaving the EU brings and makes clear the UK will continue to operate on the world stage as a leading, responsible independent coastal state.”
The Bill will help to protect our precious marine resources and develop plans to restore our country’s fish stock back to more sustainable levels. This builds on a Conservative manifesto commitment which promised to introduce a legal commitment to fish sustainably as the UK becomes an independent coastal state once more.
The Environment Minister, Victoria Prentis MP, said this legislation will give British fisherman a “once in a generation chance” to take back control of the UK’s natural resources and waters. She went on to say “this Bill sets in stone our commitment to improving the health of our seas. It gives our fisherman the better future they need and it is really an opportunity to seize a once in a generation chance to take back control of our natural resources and make sure we pass on healthier seas which are abundant with life. The Fisheries Bill gives us the power we need to protect our fish stocks and help our seafood sector. It sets a gold standard for sustainability and it allows us to bring fishing home.” You may be interested in reading the full debate yesterday, which can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-10-13/debates/46049A2E-C8C3-4594-BEC3-7EDA7FF1F435/FisheriesBill(Lords)
A healthy and sustainable fishing industry in the long-term is dependent on a healthy marine environment and the Fisheries Bill creates a robust framework for managing our fisheries sustainably in the future.
I hope this update was helpful and informative.