Denmark warns of ‘severe’ Brexit impact on fishermen

Danish fishermen rely heavily on access to the UK's Exclusive Economic Zone. [Shutterstock]

Denmark’s fishing fleet will suffer “severe” economic consequences unless business-as-usual continues after the UK leaves the EU, the Danish government said in a recently published in-depth impact assessment of Brexit on its fishing industry.

The study by the University of Copenhagen, commissioned by the Danish government, used data on fishing catches and profit margins from the last three years to establish how susceptible Denmark’s industry is to the far-reaching effects of Brexit and came up with four possible scenarios.

In scenario one, the study assumes that the current negotiations will result in unchanged conditions and that Danish fishermen will be allowed continued access to the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an area of the sea set up by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Britain moves to 'take back control' over fishing in its waters

Britain will withdraw from an agreement that allows some other European countries to fish between six and 12 miles from its coast in a move to “take back control” of fishing policy, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said on Sunday (2 July).

But the likelihood of the ongoing Brexit talks yielding unchanged conditions is debatable, given that the UK will leave the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and that the European Parliament’s recent assessment of the CFP concluded Brexit will lead to a “fundamental” change in policy.

UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove earlier this year revealed that EU vessels will still be allowed “some access” to British waters after Brexit because domestic industry simply cannot handle the amount of fish, but the level of access remains unclear.

The study’s other three scenarios paint a grim picture for Danish fishermen, in which net profit losses range from as much as 82% in scenario two to 66% in scenario four.

Its most pessimistic example estimates what would happen if all Danish and other EU vessels were excluded from fishing in the UK-EEZ, with no possibility of keeping any catches. That would decimate landings values by 57% and cut profits by more than three-quarters.

Even a modified deal, in which a new UK-EEZ would allow fishermen to land the top five most important species from the pre-Brexit period, depending on “historical catch patterns”, would more than halve net profits.

The study acknowledged that its findings do not take into account any price changes that would come about from modified trade agreements or behaviour changes by Danish fishermen.

But the authors also highlighted that Danish fish prices are “mainly determined by world prices” and that Brexit would not lead to “major price effects”.

EU fishing boats can operate in UK waters after Brexit, says Gove

The UK’s environment minister has told the Danish fishing industry that boats from EU countries will still be able to operate in British waters after Brexit, as the UK does not have enough capacity to catch and process all its fish alone. EURACTIV’s partner The Guardian reports.

Processing industry impact

The study also warns that a change of circumstances could have a massive impact on the Danish processing industry if the amount of fish caught by its fleets is reduced as predicted. But it added that the industry’s production could continue as usual if UK vessels were allowed to dock in Danish harbours.

British fishermen have already realised the threat posed by Brexit and have proposed measures intended to mitigate its effects. Leading figures from the eastern county of Lincolnshire’s food industry last week told Westminster MPs to bestow special free trade status on two key ports.

“It would mean those ports having the privilege of not putting import taxes or duties on seafood,” said Simon Dwyer, a spokesperson for a group of leading producers, who gave a presentation to MPs in parliament.

EU fishermen weigh in on Brexit tug-of-war

On Monday (23 October) 60 coastal communities from nine EU countries called on EU negotiators to secure EU fishermen’s interests in Brexit talks, as the UK seeks to take fisheries out of the final deal.