On Monday we began the process of withdrawal from a convention that allows European vessels to fish in our territorial waters. It is a sign that we intend to control access to our own fisheries after Brexit.
Withdrawal from the London Fisheries Convention, which was signed in 1964 before the UK joined the EU, will make it easier to manage access to the much larger exclusive economic zone covered by the EU’s common fisheries policy. The London Convention allows vessels from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of the UK’s coastline, part of the UK’s territorial waters.
Fishermen have long complained that their interests were sacrificed when the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973 and Portsmouth’s own fishing fleet has dramatically reduced over that time.
Taking back control of fishing in our own waters affords us the chance to develop a sustainable food strategy for the Solent area.
We need to give fishermen the long term certainty to enable them to justify investment, whether it be in equipment or in seeding our harbours.
We should maximise the opportunities that Portsmouth has, as a destination city with a growing hospitality sector, for the fishing a food business.
We should push for the cleaning up of the Solent, support the reintroduction of the native oyster and examine innovative and sustainable initiatives such as Padstow’s lobster hatchery- a tourist attraction in itself, and a great return on fishermen’s and restaurateur’s investment in it.
And we should bring together organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and ORCA, which looks after our whales and dolphins, who want to work with our fishermen to ensure the sector compliments conservation schemes.
We should replicate our very successful maritime taskforce for this sector and ensure that it is a core element of our Local Enterprise Partnership and Councils plans.
The shellfish nets that drape the sides of Ben Ainslie Racing is the shape of things to come.
Let’s size the opportunity to develop a sustainable food strategy for our area, with a strong fishing fleet at its heart.