The Kirkella freezer trawler is currently docked in Hull and has been unable to set sail since the Brexit-era began on January 1. The UK signed a landmark trade deal with the EU on December 24 – covering fishing rights in UK and EU waters. But, the Government is yet to finalise a concrete agreement on quotas with non-EU countries in distant Arctic waters – including Norway, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
Karl Turner, Labour MP for Hull East, hit out at the Government and said the fleet has been left with “no ability to fish” and accused Number 10 of being “hell-bent on putting the last nail in the coffin of distant waters fishing”.
A Government spokesman said the UK has secured Fisheries Framework Agreements with Norway and the Faroe Islands, which provides the basis for detailed negotiations about quotas.
He said “new arrangements” had been put in place on distant fish stocks to “best serve the interests of the British fishing industry”, and negotiations were ongoing.
UK Fisheries, which owns the £52million vessel, says it can freeze up to 780 tonnes of cod and haddock on each of its trips to waters off Norway, Svalbard and Greenland.
They add the 266ft-long trawler supplies between eight and 12 percent of all fish sold in fish and chip shops in the UK.
The ship usually has around 100 crew members on board and completed its last voyage last month, but has since been left in St George’s Dock, Hull.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Turner said: “The industry and local leaders have been alerting Government to this for over two years, yet here we are with no ability to fish.
“It seems as if this Government is hell-bent on putting the last nail in the coffin of distant waters fishing, just at the time we are meant to be taking back control and giving a desperately needed boost to the fishing sector.”
The Chief executive of UK Fisheries Jane Sandell praised the efforts of the Labour MP and insisted the vessel “should be at work fishing in the distant waters”.
Ms Sandell warned the Government there could be a fish shortage and business could go under if the matter is not resolved.
She added: “Talks between the UK, the EU and Norway are only beginning now, and there is no certainty unless the Government seriously raises its game that we will get anything like the quota we need in distant waters that will make fishing economically viable for us.
“Without specific assurances on these quotas then we can’t start reassembling our crews – a difficult and time-consuming enough process given the current Covid situation.”
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A UK Government spokesman said: “As an independent coastal state, the UK has put in place new arrangements to further influence the management of near and distant fish stocks, to best serve the interests of the British fishing industry.
“The UK has secured a Fisheries Framework Agreement with Norway and the Faroe Islands, which provides the legal basis for annual negotiations on fishing opportunities and potential access to each other’s waters.
“Negotiations for fishing opportunities in 2021 will be concluded as soon as possible.”