Climate Change and Brexit Upsetting EU Fishers and Markets

Photo: Monica Medina

The United Kingdom is threatening to close its waters to fishers from other countries in Europe once it leaves the European Union next week, and if it does, the impact would be immediate and severe on fishing communities in neighboring nations that are now seeing their local fish stocks decline due to climate change.  A new study by scientists from the University of Aberdeen and the US non-profit EDF published last week in the journal Ecography confirmed the problem — that fish populations in the Northeast Atlantic are moving northwards, and species which were once limited to southern European waters, like hake, have expanded the area they occupy, while species found in northern European waters, such as cod, have contracted.

Why This Matters:  One of the key issues in the Brexit negotiations that will begin after the U.K. formally leaves the EU on Friday is bound to be fisheries – right now all EU nations have free access to the U.K.’s lucrative fishing grounds.  President Macron of France vowed that fishing will be treated “as an essential economic interest for our country that must be defended” in the talks.  And with climate change, the stakes are even higher for France and other EU nations because the U.K. is on the “winning” side of the fish migrations that will only get worse as the waters of the North Atlantic continue to warm.  From the looks of it, neither the EU or the UK is willing to back down when it comes to fishing rights.  That could scuttle the entire Brexit deal and set off a trade war between the U.K. and Europe at the end of 2020 when negotiations must conclude.

Fishing Is Important to the Economies of Coastal Communities in the U.K. and the EU

According to the Financial Times, “EU diplomats fear that a post-Brexit negotiation covering everything from trade in goods to financial services — which accounted for 6.9 percent of UK gross domestic product in 2018 — could become snarled up on fish.” Under current EU law, there are catch limits on fisheries that limit the volume of fish that can be caught from each stock and then these quotes are divided up among the European nations.  After Brexit, the U.K. won’t be bound by the EU fishing limits, and they can bar European fishers from fishing in U.K waters.  And the U.K.’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has promised to not “trade away” the U.K.’s fishing rights in the negotiation.

But, but, but if the U.K. bans European fishing fleets from its waters going forward, then the Europeans may block or put high tariffs on fish products imported into Europe from the U.K. — thus essentially blocking their markets from U.K. fish exports. And that could hurt U.K. fishers because half of all the fish caught there are currently sold in the EU.

And climate change exacerbates this problem because the movement of the fish stocks from the EU north will mean the European catch limits on those species will no longer apply in U.K. waters.  Currently, 70 fish stocks straddle the waters between the U.K. and the EU, and much of the fish caught in the U.K.’s waters are currently processed in the EU.

Up Next

The U.S. Challenges China’s Territorial Claims Over Parts of the South China Sea

The U.S. Challenges China’s Territorial Claims Over Parts of the South China Sea

Late yesterday, the Trump administration challenged China’s “ownership” claims of certain disputed portions of the South China Sea that are valuable fishing grounds and that also, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, contain huge reserves of oil and gas, much of which is yet undiscovered. 

Why This Matters:  This may ultimately about all that oil and gas, but the conflict today is overfishing.  China continues to use its military to prevent Vietnamese fishing boats from harvesting in the disputed areas.

Continue Reading 577 words
Climate Change Impacting Fish Spawning, While Not Enough Habitat Is Protected By Fisheries Managers

Climate Change Impacting Fish Spawning, While Not Enough Habitat Is Protected By Fisheries Managers

We know that rising ocean temperatures are causing fish stocks to migrate to cooler waters, and now we have new evidence as to why.  A study by German scientists found that juvenile fish and fish that are ready to mate are especially sensitive to changes in water temperature, and as a result, up to 60 percent of all species may be forced to leave their traditional spawning areas as waters warm.

Why This Matters:  Fish populations need functional habitat to survive and procreate.

Continue Reading 565 words
The House Select Committee’s “Blueprint” for Solving the Climate Crisis

The House Select Committee’s “Blueprint” for Solving the Climate Crisis

By Jean Flemma and Miriam Goldstein Historically, the ocean has been overlooked in the climate debate. That makes no sense. Ignoring the 71 percent of the planet that creates more than half the oxygen we breathe and has absorbed 90 percent of the excess heat created by climate change can hardly lead to a complete […]

Continue Reading 1040 words