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What did Michel Barnier mean about EU fishing rights in UK waters? Part 2

OK. A reminder as to what Barnier actually said:

“…..while the UK would regain full sovereignty over its waters post-Brexit, the fish in those waters were ‘another story’”

If you haven’t, I suggest you read Part 1 for fuller coverage of this issue.

So, is there any basis of truth in his remarks? He did say after this comment, ‘looking at’ and ‘respecting the international regulations’. He was probably referring to UNCLOS, (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)

It’s a long document, over 300 Articles plus 9 Annexes, but just three of these are really relevant. I’ll just give the gist of them here, but I’ll include the actual wording at the end of this post, in case you’re interested.

The Gist

Under Article 61, the UK has the right to decide the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of the resources available in its coastal waters, its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), but it can’t set this limit ‘out of thin air’. It must base its decision on sound scientific, expert advice.

Under Article 62(2), if the UK is unable to harvest all of its TAC, then any surplus can be taken by neighbouring states, but only by agreement, not by helping themselves.

This means that the EU would have to negotiate with the UK to gain ‘access to the surplus of the allowable catch through agreements or other arrangements.’  

Now fish are not stationary, they are mobile, and a particular fish stock may move through two or more countries’ waters.

Under Article 63(1) where such stocks do migrate through more than one EEZ, the parties must cooperate to agree TACs, so as to ensure conservation and development of fish stocks. However this doesn’t mean that the EU can make demands on its share of the TAC.

In addition, the UK doesn’t ‘have’ to negotiate with the EU regarding this. Instead as a sovereign nation the UK can seek agreements with the separate states.

So, what did he mean?   

I don’t know, and nor does anyone else. He may not know himself, but having watched the video where he gave the statement, I think it was another of his ploys to cause confusion and fear, especially in people who were not aware of the contents of UNCLOS.

Also remember that the fishing issue is not the same as trade. In the event of a no-deal, trade will continue under WTO rules, but this does not apply to fishing, which in the absence of a deal will mean that EU fleets must stop fishing in UK waters after 31 Dec 2020 until a mutual agreement has been reached.

Whatever his reasons, we must always be aware that Michel Barnier is a very intelligent man, that he served as the French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries for two years, and since being appointed as a negotiator by and for the EU, he has spent years ‘negotiating’ with other states and has usually got his own way, or perhaps better, has succeeded in advancing the interests of the EU, that is, progress towards the United States of Europe, controlled by the unelected, undemocratic European Commission.

UNCLOS Articles referred to above:

(For the full text, go to

Article 61

1. The coastal State shall determine the allowable catch of the living resources in its exclusive economic zone.

2. The coastal State, taking into account the best scientific evidence available to it, shall ensure through proper conservation and management measures that the maintenance of the living resources in the exclusive economic zone is not endangered by over-exploitation. As appropriate, the coastal State and competent international organizations, whether subregional, regional or global, shall cooperate to this end.

3. Such measures shall also be designed to maintain or restore populations of harvested species at levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield, as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors, including the economic needs of coastal fishing communities and the special requirements of developing States, and taking into account fishing patterns, the interdependence of stocks and any generally recommended international minimum standards, whether subregional, regional or global.

4. In taking such measures the coastal State shall take into consideration the effects on species associated with or dependent upon harvested species with a view to maintaining or restoring populations of such associated or dependent species above levels at which their reproduction may become seriously threatened.

5. Available scientific information, catch and fishing effort statistics, and other data relevant to the conservation of fish stocks shall be contributed and exchanged on a regular basis through competent international organizations, whether subregional, regional or global, where appropriate and with participation by all States concerned, including States whose nationals are allowed to fish in the exclusive economic zone.

Article 62(2)

2. The coastal State shall determine its capacity to harvest the living resources of the exclusive economic zone. Where the coastal State does not have the capacity to harvest the entire allowable catch, it shall, through agreements or other arrangements and pursuant to the terms, conditions, laws and regulations referred to in paragraph 4, give other States access to the surplus of the allowable catch, having particular regard to the provisions of articles 69 and 70, especially in relation to the developing States mentioned therein.

Article 63(1)

1. Where the same stock or stocks of associated species occur within the exclusive economic zones of two or more coastal States, these States shall seek, either directly or through appropriate subregional or regional organizations, to agree upon the measures necessary to coordinate and ensure the conservation and development of such stocks without prejudice to the other provisions of this Part.

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