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Brexit would leave French fishermen out of British waters

The fishing boat “Jannetje Cornelis” was constructed in Spain, is owned and operated by the Netherlands, and its home port is located in England. Frequently, the ship sells its catch to France, where the fish is then processed in the Netherlands and sent to supermarkets in Italy and Spain.

Boulogne, France has been a maritime center since the Roman Empire and is the largest port in France. Thousands of locals work on fishing boats or in processing plants, part of an industry regulated by the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) established in 1970 to allow any member state to fish in EU waters.

The United Kingdom’s expected separation from the EU is a severe threat to this multicultural community and the majority of continental Europe’s fishing business. The UK has some of the richest fishing waters in the EU and operates the second largest fleet.

About half of the fish that arrive to Boulogne are captured in British waters, which start 19.2 kilometers from the city. The British Parliament voted on January 15 to return their waters to exclusive sovereign control after Brexit.

French President Emmanuel Macron made clear that access to UK waters is essential in any Brexit deal while British Prime Minister Theresa May insists the UK will not cede fishing rights to obtain concessions in other areas.

A shocking majority of British fishermen voted for Brexit with the hope that vessel access restrictions would revitalize their business. British-flagged vessels brought in about 1 million tonnes of seafood in 1973 when the country first entered the EU. In 2016, landings dropped to 550,000 tonnes while non-British vessels fished 800,000 tonnes in the country’s waters. The UK Maritime Administration Organization suggested that the Government imitate Norway and impede the access of foreign vessels who don’t have an agreement with UK.

French fishermen at Boulogne are lamenting the state of uncertainty, noting that fish don’t care about boarders and there isn’t enough fishing area on the French side.