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What does Brexit mean for our seas?

29th March 2017

As Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 and sets off the process of leaving the European Union today, we ask: what will it mean for our seas?

Following Brexit, MCS considers it of utmost importance that all of the EU directives and regulations set for environment matters must be applied in the UK via the Great Repeal Bill largely “as we were”. Legislation on water quality and the nature directives - so crucial to our wildlife protection in UK waters – have all proved themselves to be strong, robust and effective. If anything, they need better implementation, but definitely not reviewing or re-inventing.

For managing fisheries, it is likely to be more complicated, not least because of the way EU regulations apply in this sector and because of the intrinsic international and transboundary nature of fisheries management. Though it is perhaps harder to foresee the changes, preserving the progress made in the last reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy will be key. MCS invested a lot of energy and enthusiasm into helping get genuine reform of the CFP and is proud to see many fisheries improving, both in environmental status and profitability.

There is a significant risk that both important environmental and fisheries laws will be weakened during Brexit negotiations. Some groups wish to see greatly increased fishing quotas for UK fleets and exclusive access to UK waters, whilst at the same time continuing to fish in other Member States’ waters and selling their catch to EU countries. It is encouraging to see others seeing Brexit as an opportunity to “take sustainability further than we have been allowed to in the past”, according to Defra.

The real crux with Brexit will be to ensure that the momentum for healthy seas and sustainable fisheries is maintained and built on to help deliver the UK’s ambitions of a productive and healthy marine environment that supports thriving coastal communities and a profitable fishing industry.

You can be assured that, over the next two years, we will be calling for environmental laws to be kept strong for the good of the UK, and Europe’s seas.

This is an abridged version of an article in the latest magazine "Marine Conservation" for MCS supporters, available with membership (join here) or feel free to request a review copy via our contact us page.

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