Brexit presents ‘absolutely unique’ fishing opportunity – UK a real leader

Fishing boom to be 'huge' for UK says expert

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British coastal communities are set for a huge boost as plans are underway for big-game tunny fishing to return to the UK for the first time in more than 50 years. The activity endured its heyday across seaside towns, including Scarborough, up until the late 1950s before overfishing put the species at risk of extinction. But, in the past 10 years stocks of bluefin tuna have begun to increase and return to British shores.

Conservationists have reported hundreds of thousands of Bluefin tuna – which can weigh more than 500 pounds – in waters in Cornwall and Kent.

The UK is now free from the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy and under the treaty British fishermen were not granted any quotas for bluefin tuna.

Now, UK fleets are able to take advantage of being freed from the policy after regulators granted access.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has handed British fishermen a quota of 50 tons.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is set to apply to the ICCAT to lead a scientific catch, tag and release research programme.

Stuart Singleton-White, the head of campaigns at the Angling Trust, said Brexit has enabled the UK to lead the way in protecting the species and sustainable fishing.

He said leaving the bloc has provided an opportunity “to do something that is absolutely unique to us, and where we can show real leadership on how to sustainably manage a bluefin tuna fishery and really maximise the benefit for coastal communities”.

Mr Singleton-White added: “That’s a new freedom we have to be able to do that and make those decisions ourselves.”

The newfound quota, albeit on a relatively low scale, is set provide a huge boost for struggling coastal communities.

Conservationists insist it is far too early for species of bluefin tuna to be landed at a large commercial scale as stocks remain at least 10 percent below its natural level.

Charles Clover, of the Blue Marine Foundation, said: “Overfishing in UK waters remains a huge issue that successive governments have failed to tackle.

“They mustn’t add endangered tuna to the list of species we are overfishing.

“This stock needs to be treated with care as it is below 10 per cent of its natural level and recovery is still short of a healthy population.”

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said the UK remains commitment to protecting and managing levels of bluefin tuna in British waters.

He said: “Despite some early signs of improvements to bluefin tuna stocks, there are still high levels of uncertainty around the extent of the recovery of this iconic species.

“We are committed to ensuring bluefin tuna has sufficient protection in our waters, and we must continue to approach the management of this species with caution.”

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As part of the Brexit trade deal EU fishing quotas will be slashed by 25 percent over the next five years.

Since January, British fishermen have been hit with additional red-tape when exporting goods to Europe.

Speaking in parliament this week, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove reiterated the Government will do “whatever is required” to support the fishing industry.

He also announced a new £20million Brexit support fund to help small and medium-sized businesses to adjust to new customs rules of origin and VAT rules.

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