Labour and SNP MEPs today ignored the interests of British fishermen and backed an attempt by the European Parliament to keep the UK inside the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) post-Brexit.
The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens also supported the threat to exclude British fish from any future trade deal with the EU unless the UK continues to apply the CFP. The proposal is contained in a wider report on fish products entering the EU, which was passed by the Parliament in Strasbourg.
Conservative Fisheries Spokesman Nosheena Mobarik described the parties' decision to vote in favour of the report as "astonishing".
She said: "I cannot understand how any British MEP can endorse what amounts to blackmail by the European Parliament. This report says the UK must either give up the right to exercise control over its fishing grounds or face losing EU markets for its fish.
"If it became policy it would cost jobs amongst our fishermen and in our coastal communities. While Conservative MEPs stood up for Britain's interests, the fisheries sector was betrayed today by Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems, the Greens and Plaid Cymru. This vote will not be forgotten by our fishing communities."
Ministers have pledged the UK will take control of its fishing waters at the end of the implementation period in December 2020. Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands all cooperate with the EU on fisheries affairs but are not forced to be part of the CFP
Baroness Mobarik continued: "Conservative MEPs have faith that, free from EU red tape and outdated systems, the UK can become a strong and dynamic maritime nation, as an island should be. It seems that the opposition parties have no such ambitions for our fishing fleet."
The report was politicised during its passage through the Parliament's Fisheries Committee when an amendment was inserted calling on the European Commission, "when drafting a post-Brexit agreement, to make the UK's access to the market for fishery and aquaculture products dependent on EU vessels' access to British waters and on the application of the Common Fisheries Policy."
As a so-called 'own initiative' report it is unlikely to become law but nevertheless sends a strong signal about the Parliament's view.
Conservative MEPs voted against.
Measures approved today have been hailed by Conservative MEPs as a major step forward in securing the long term sustainability of North Sea fish stocks.
The European Union's North Sea Plan, which was passed by a large majority in the European Parliament, is expected to come into force this summer. It sets limits on fishing quotas to avoid them exceeding levels regarded as sustainable by the latest scientific research.
Conservative MEPs helped shape the legislation and Fisheries Spokesman Nosheena Mobarik said it provided greater certainty for UK fishermen.
"The North Sea is one of our key fishing grounds and we must protect it from overexploitation if we are to safeguard the futures of our fishermen and coastal communities, "she said. "The North Sea Plan helps achieve that.
"Scientists estimate that if properly managed an additional 1.45 million tonnes of fish could be taken from the North Sea on a sustainable basis within a decade, showing that conservation and economic prosperity can, and must, go hand-in-hand.
"Consumers increasingly want to know that the fish they buy is from sustainable sources. These measures will reassure them that if it has been caught by British fishermen in the North Sea, it is.
"It's a classic win-win situation."
The main commercial species in the North Sea include cod, soles, haddock, whiting, plaice, saithe and prawns. In 2015 landings were worth more than £181 million.
The UK will take control of its fishing grounds once it leaves the EU and regards conservation as a key priority.
Baroness Mobarik said: " After Brexit we want our fishing industry to thrive and will work with our European neighbours to champion sustainable fishing. Fish do not recognise international boundaries and continued co-operation is in everyone's interests."
Senior MEPs have launched an urgent appeal to halt the execution by the Iranian authorities of an innocent member of a persecuted religious minority.
Led by British MEP Anthea Mcintyre, the politicians are calling on Iran to stop the execution of Yavar Mohammed Salas and order a retrial after he was sentenced to death by the Iranian Supreme Court last week.
She is gathering signatures from MEPs of all nationalities and across the political spectrum for a letter insisting Iran's leadership must stop the hanging and conduct a fair trial.
Supporters say Mr Salas, a Gonabi Dervish, was wrongly convicted of the murder of three police officers when the case against him remained incomplete and unsubstantiated. Eyewitness and photographic evidence establishing his innocence was ignored by the court, while an alleged confession was extracted under duress.
Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: "It appears Mr Salas was denied proper legal representation and that his trial violated the Iranian constitution and penal code.
"We say there must be no execution and this man must be allowed his right to a fair trial. We also condemn the suppression of religious and ethnic minorities, and the persecution of Gonabadi Dervishes in Iran, and call for the immediate release of detainees who have been imprisoned because of their beliefs.
- Set up port reception schemes were financial incentives are offered to fishermen for returning unwanted nets.
- Incentivise vessels to use technology to track and if necessary retrieve their lost nets
- Support research into biodegradable nets to speed up their development
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