News - September 14, 2017

Brexit could affect Dutch fishing rights

Brexit could have serious consequences for Dutch fisheries, concluded researchers from Wageningen Economic Research and Wageningen Marine Research.

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A key issue in the Brexit negotiations is the division of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This is the area of sea up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from a country’s coast. European member states are allowed to fish in each other’s EEZs. What is more, the fishing quotas – the total number of fish a country is allowed to catch – are distributed among the countries.

The British EZ covers a large area of the North Sea. ‘Since Brexit was announced there has been a lot of uncertainty among Dutch fishers about future access to these fishing grounds and about the quota distribution,’ says Mike Turenhout of Wageningen Economic Research. He and his colleagues lined up the figures in the journal EuroChoices.

In total, there are about 35 Dutch ships which earn more than half their income in British waters. It is in these waters that Dutch pelagic fishers now catch almost 60 percent of their herring and mackerel, and cutter fishers catch 30 percent of their catches.

Some Dutch-owned ships sail under foreign flags. At the fish auction in Urk, for instance, more than a quarter of the fish comes from Dutch fishing boats that sail under the British flag. Turenhout; ‘It is not clear yet whether this will still be possible after Brexit, and whether import duties might have to be paid then.’

An added factor is that Dutch flatfish fishers use a pulse trawl, which catches fish using electric shocks. This saves on fuel and the fishers catch sole, which fetches a better price. But the United Kingdom is opposed to this technique and it is not certain that the pulse trawl will be permitted after Brexit.

Last year the big Dutch sea fisheries landed 275 million kilos of fish and shellfish, worth 112 million euros. Cutter  fisheries accounted for 84 million kilos of fish and shrimps, worth 343 million euros.