Give more quota to small fishing boats after Brexit, Labour says

More fishing quota should be given to smaller boats after Brexit, Labour has urged.

The party said it was bringing forward amendments to the fisheries bill, which will govern the sector after the UK leaves the EU, which would reallocate quotas for fish catches along social and environmental lines to benefit small boats.

Labour said that in government it would set out a fair plan for the future allocation of new and existing quota, by giving more fishing opportunities to small boats, based on social and environmental criteria.

Its shadow environment department (Defra) team is consulting on how to boost employment opportunities in ports and processing, and on encouraging environmentally-sustainable fishing.

Small boats provide the bulk of jobs in the catching sector and contribute to coastal towns around the country, but have just 6% of the total British quota, with much of the rights to fish owned by a handful of firms, Labour said.

Luke Pollard, shadow fisheries minister, said: “By ignoring the needs of smaller fishing fleets, this Government is betraying British fishing.

“Michael Gove could take action to redistribute fishing quota now if he wanted to, but he is failing by not delivering quota reallocation in the Fisheries Bill.

“Labour is setting out our vision for Britain to have the most sustainable fisheries in the world.

“That means a greater focus on ensuring fish stocks are healthy, that there is proper enforcement and a fairer distribution of fishing quota.

He added: “Labour will ensure that fishing quota isn’t monopolised by the few.”

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said: “This is the first serious, concrete and achievable commitment to reform the UK’s fishing industry we have seen from any political party since the EU referendum.

“Labour’s commitment to reallocate existing fishing quota – not just any new quota following an exit agreement – is a huge step in acknowledging that the current system is broken and sticking plasters won’t work.

“This approach would give due weight to social, economic and environmental criteria in the distribution of fishing quota and would see huge gains for coastal communities and our environment.”