UK signs agreement with ICES

Published on January 21, 2021

Before Christmas the UK government signed a MoU with ICES that will ensure continued scientific collaboration also after the departure from the EU. ICES will continue to provide scientific advice to the government on fishing opportunities, including information on the state of marine ecosystems and the impact of human activities.

The International Council of the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is a network of nearly 6,000 scientists from over 700 marine institutes in 20 member countries. ​​​​​​​​ICES has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of the United Kingdom (UK), entering into force from 1 january 2021. With this, ICES will provide the UK with scientific information and advice relating to the North Atlantic and its adjacent seas.

The agreement includes annual advice on fishing opportunities, as well as information on the state of marine ecosystems and the impacts of human activities. The UK may also request ICES advice on an ad hoc basis.

This MoU is also important from a sustainability perspective, as many fish stocks are straddling the waters of the EU, the UK and other ICES parties, such as Norway. With the new agreement, UK scientists will also continue to participate in the ICES stock assessment process, ensuring that data collected in the UK will be included in ICES advice. This is very important for shared stocks, not only in the North Atlantic but also for migratory species such as European eel.

“Now that we are an independent coastal State, we are moving forward with a strong vision as world leaders in marine and fisheries science. UK scientists are key contributors to ICES, and we will continue to play a leading role”, said UK Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis in a press release.

The UK has a long-running history with ICES as a founding member at its inception in 1902, before becoming a formal contracting party during the ICES Convention of 1964. While the UK was a EU member the scientific collaboration was administered by the European Commission. It was therefore necessary for the parties to reach a new agreement post Brexit.

Mark Dickey-Collas, Chair of ICES Advisory Committee, also welcomes the new MoU: “From the very beginning, the UK has been an active and influential member of ICES. This MoU cements the continuing partnership for our advisory activities, and is a further recognition of the value of our advice system“, he said in a press release.

The MoU will be reviewed and possibly revised every third year.