Fears Brexit will make illegal fishing hard to police

Salmon Image copyright IOM government

Brexit will lead to an "open season" for illegal fishing in Welsh waters, Counsel General Mick Antoniw has said.

In September three vessels were fined a total of £62,000 for scallop fishing offences in Welsh waters.

Mr Antoniw said Britain's exit from the EU would make illegal fishing harder to police as there would no longer be any agreements with EU vessels.

A fisherman called the comments "staggering", saying it was EU laws "devastating" the industry.

The Welsh Government says illegal fishing can degrade fishing stocks and cause damage to local economies.

In the last three years officers have investigated 57 suspected breaches in fishing legislation, resulting in 31 successful prosecutions.

Mr Antoniw said recent prosecutions served as a "clear warning" that the Welsh Government and the courts would use every power to protect Welsh waters for future generations.

Image copyright Labour

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales' Good Morning Wales on Monday, Mr Antoniw said Brexit would make illegal fishing more difficult to police.

"Brexit is going to change the situation dramatically, because at the moment we have specific Welsh laws but they have to comply with EU standards and directives," he said.

"Once that comes to an end it is almost open season, we don't know what the situation is going to be, we do not know how we are going to have to actually protect our waters because there will no longer be any agreements with European fishing vessels."

Len Walters, a fisherman in Cardigan Bay, called the comments "staggering" and said the EU had been "devastating" for the Welsh fishing industry.

He said: "Once Article 50 is signed then technically our 200 mile limit comes back to UK waters and UK control, now that's got to be better which ever way you look at it."

The Welsh Government regulates fishing, and other activities, in marine waters.

Prosecutions under fisheries legislation in Wales are taken in the name of the Counsel General.

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