Negotiations on fishing quotas in the shadow of Brexit

Today and tomorrow, EU Member States are negotiating the allocation of fishing quotas for next year in Brussels. They are special negotiations because it is not yet clear how many fish European fishermen are allowed to catch in British waters. Especially Dutch fishermen catch a large part of their fish there.

The annual agreements on the allocation of fishing quotas between the various countries are exceptionally valid for only three months. As long as there is uncertainty as to whether and the extent to which fishing can be carried out in the waters of the United Kingdom after 1 January, there is no point in looking forward any longer.

Any agreements on mutual fishing rights between the UK and the EU are part of discussions on a new trade relationship after Brexit. These include the question of the extent to which EU fishermen have access to the UKs exclusive economic zone and how much fish they can catch there. The exclusive economic zone is a strip of 370 kilometres off the coast of a country in which that country is entitled to the fish and raw materials present.

Even with Norway, not a member of the European Union, the annual negotiations have not yet been completed. There is therefore much uncertainty in and around the North Sea in particular.


For a number of fish species, the proposal is on the table to extend this years quotas to the new year after 1 January until negotiations with the UK and Norway have been concluded. In this case, the consequences for Dutch fishermen are limited for the time being.

Otherwise, if, as a result of a new trade agreement or a no-deal-Brexit, the fishing rights of European fishermen in British waters will be largely or completely expire. In that case, Dutch fishing will be severely affected. Dutch fishermen catch 60% of the fish in the UKs exclusive economic zone.


If Dutch and other EU fishermen have no or less access to British fish, according to a relevant diplomat, there is a risk of overfishing in EU coastal waters. More fishermen will then want to catch enough fish in a more restricted area to make a living.

But that does not mean that the Netherlands is already asking for more fishing rights off the coast of other EU Member States for the next three months. First, the outcome of the Brexit negotiations is awaiting. The really exciting and perhaps difficult negotiations on fishing quotas for the Netherlands begin afterwards.