Western Isles Fishermen’s Association (WIFA) members welcomed the recent vote for the UK to leave the EU at their recent Annual General Meeting held in Benbecula.
WIFA believes the opportunity to control UK waters out to 200 miles, coupled with enhanced catching opportunities for the inshore fleet operating inside the 12 mile limit, will undoubtedly bring significant economic opportunities to the UK fleet and to coastal communities like the Outer Hebrides.
Since joining the EU the Western Isles fleet has declined by 25% in both number of vessels and fishermen employed in the industry, with similar or worse decline reported from most other coastal communities around Scotland.
With the Brexit process expected to get underway within the next year, WIFA says that in the first instance, the UK Government should guarantee that the fishing industry will continue to have the same levels of funding that EMFF funding would have provided the industry until 2020.
Furthermore, it says politicians from all regions of the UK should unite and engage in meaningful negotiations to ensure that fishermen continue to have unrestricted access to European markets and that all EU citizens currently employed in all sectors of the fishing industry will be permitted to remain following UK withdrawal from the EU.
Duncan MacInnes, Secretary for WIFA, said: “Withdrawal from the EU offers the local fishing industry a unique opportunity to develop a sustainable long-term industry rather than the continuous reams of regulations coming from Brussels which create additional unnecessary barriers to the working practices of genuine fishermen.”