July 2 (UPI) — Britain announced Sunday it will “take back control” of its waters after exiting a fishing agreement with other nations.
On Monday, ministers will trigger a two-year process to depart from the London Fisheries Convention, which was signed in 1964 before joining the European Union.
This decision is part of Britain’s departure from the European Union in 2019.
The agreement allows vessels from Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands to fish within 6 and 12 nautical miles of each other’s coastlines.
“Leaving the London Fisheries Convention is an important moment as we take back control of our fishing policy,” Environment Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement. “It means for the first time in more than 50 years we will be able to decide who can access our waters.
“This is an historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union — one which leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the U.K.,” he said.
According to 2015 figures, Britain’s fishing industry includes more than 6,000 vessels and hauls in 780,000 tons of fish worth $1 billion. About 11,000 tons of fish were caught by other countries under the London convention, worth an estimated $22 million.
“When we leave the European Union we will become an independent political state and that means that we can then extend control of our waters up to 200 miles or the median line between Britain and France, and Britain and Ireland,” Gove said.
“One critical thing about the common fisheries policy is that it has been an environmental disaster. And one of the reasons we want to change it is that we want to ensure that we can have sustainable fish stocks for the future … I think it’s important that we recognize that leaving the European Union is going to help the environment.”
The government plans to work with the fishing industry and marine scientists, as well as the devolved administrations, “to preserve and increase fish stocks for their long-term sustainability,” according to a release from the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, told the Guardian the move was “an important part of establishing the U.K. as an independent coastal state with sovereignty over its own exclusive economic zone.”
Ben Stafford, head of campaigns at World Wildlife Funds, said achieving sustainable fishing was about “much more than which country fishes where.” He told the Guardian: “It is about ensuring that fishermen use the right fishing gear, that fishing takes place at levels that maintain sustainable stocks and that we pioneer ways to monitor what is happening at sea in order to understand the impacts of fishing.”