An MP has urged the Prime Minister to step in as the trawler which normally catches up to 10% of all the fish sold in the UK’s fish and chip shops remains tied up in port waiting for new distant-waters fishing deals.
Hull East MP Karl Turner said it seems the Government “is hell-bent on putting the last nail in the coffin of distant-waters fishing” as the 100-strong crew of Kirkella wait for negotiations to be completed with Norway and others.
Kirkella – which has been described as the pride of the UK’s distant-waters fishing fleet – has been tied up in St George’s Dock, Hull, since returning from its last trip at the beginning of December.
Despite the Brexit trade deal having much to say about the UK-EU fishing arrangements, it meant agreements are still needed with the non-EU countries involved in the distant-waters arrangements.
The £52 million state-of-the-art Kirkella can freeze up to 780 tonnes of cod and haddock on each of its trips to the seas off Norway, Svalbard and Greenland.
On Monday, Hull East MP Karl Turner asked Boris Johnson to step in, saying the city was “increasingly alarmed at the potential loss of the UK’s distant waters fishing fleet”.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Labour MP Mr Turner said: “The industry and local leaders have been alerting government to this for over two years, yet here we are with no ability to fish.
“It seems as if this Government is hell-bent on putting the last nail in the coffin of distant waters fishing, just at the time we are meant to be taking back control and giving a desperately needed boost to the fishing sector.”
Mr Turner said he wanted to know the Government’s plan to secure continued access to the quotas the UK has caught historically in the Norwegian Economic Zone (NEZ) in and around the Barents Sea.
The MP said he also wanted to know about plans to secure access to the waters around Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland.
He said: “My constituents desperately require answers to these questions and are expecting your Government to return to the negotiating table and make constructive progress as soon as possible.
“Fishing communities like Hull cannot tolerate any more dither and delay when their industry is on hold and jobs are at risk. I look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.”
Chief executive of UK Fisheries Jane Sandell said: “We’re grateful to Karl and indeed to all the people of this tight-knit community who have expressed their alarm at seeing Kirkella tied up in Hull when she should be at work fishing in the distant waters.
“Talks between the UK, the EU and Norway are only beginning now, and there is no certainty unless the Government seriously raises its game that we will get anything like the quota we need in distant waters that will make fishing economically viable for us.
“Without specific assurances on these quotas then we can’t start reassembling our crews – a difficult and time-consuming enough process given the current Covid situation.”
The UK has secured Fisheries Framework Agreements with Norway and the Faroe Islands which provide the basis for detailed negotiations about quotas.
Defra said the Government has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Greenland to boost co-operation on fisheries matters.
It said UK Fisheries already has access to fishing opportunities in the waters around Svalbard as a result of separate arrangements between the UK and Norway.
A UK Government spokesman said: “As an independent coastal state, the UK has put in place new arrangements to further influence the management of near and distant fish stocks, to best serve the interests of the British fishing industry.
“The UK has secured a Fisheries Framework Agreement with Norway and the Faroe Islands, which provides the legal basis for annual negotiations on fishing opportunities and potential access to each other’s waters. Negotiations for fishing opportunities in 2021 will be concluded as soon as possible.”
Scottish fishermen have voiced concerns over whether a deal with Norway which would benefit UK Fisheries would be detrimental to their interests if it allowed more access for Norwegian ships to Scotland’s waters.