Britain says it will withdraw from a 50-year-old deal allowing some other countries to fish near its coast. Pulling out of the deal, which will take two years, fulfills a key Brexit pledge.
Britain on Sunday said it would withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention, which allows some other European countries to fish within an area between 6 and 12 nautical miles (11 and 22 km) of its coastline.
Triggering the two-year withdrawal period, which is to occur on Monday, is a first move toward Britain's reasserting control over its fishing industry as the country prepares to depart the European Union.
"This is an historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union - one which leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the UK," Environment Secretary Michael Gove said.
Gove, a vocal Brexit supporter, said that after Britain had left the EU, it would be able to extend control of its waters to 200 miles, an area currently covered by separate EU regulations that will be renegotiated as part of a Brexit deal.
However, withdrawing from the convention will mean that UK vessels will also no longer be permitted to fish in the area 6 to 12 nautical miles off the coast of the other countries covered by the agreement: Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.
'Unwelcome and unhelpful'
The signing of the London Fisheries Convention pre-dates Britain's EU membership, and would thus still be in force after the country leaves the EU unless it starts the withdrawal period now. The agreement stands alongside the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, which currently allows vessels from EU member states to fish between 12 and 200 nautical miles off the UK.
Ireland's agriculture minister, Michael Creed, criticized Britain's decision as "unwelcome and unhelpful."
According to government figures, British fishing vessels caught 708,000 metric tons (792,960 US tons) of fish in 2015, worth 775 million pounds (894 million euros, $1 billion). Other members of the convention caught an estimated 10,000 metric tons in British waters.
Fishing rights were the subject of heated debate in the runup to the June 2016 Brexit referendum, with British fishermen claiming that EU fishing quotas were damaging the UK industry.
tj/jm (AFP, Reuters, AP)