UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice visited Peterhead in Scotland on Monday to outline the case for leaving the EU from a fisheries perspective.
Mr Eustice told a gathering of fishermen that if the UK leaves the EU and takes control, it would regain its seat at the table in vital North Sea quota negotiations.
He said the UK would be able to take control of its waters out to 200 nautical miles or the median line and that this would then place fishermen in the strongest possible position to revisit the issue of “relative stability” in quota allocations.
This, he said, would allow the UK to secure a much fairer share of international quota allocations in species such as sole, haddock and cod, especially in the Channel and the Celtic Sea.
He told the meeting: “The North Sea is economically the most important fishery in the UK.
“We are Europe’s largest producer of mackerel and North Sea cod and haddock are vitally important fisheries.
“However, fishing opportunities for stocks like mackerel are not even decided by the EU.
“They are settled at an entirely separate organisation called the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission through a series of meetings called the “coastal states meetings”.
“Norway has a seat at the table; Iceland has a seat at the table; The Faroes has a seat at the table.
“But, extraordinarily, the UK, the country with the greatest interest in the North Sea is denied a seat at the table because we are a member of the EU.
“Instead, our technical experts and diplomats are reduced to whispering in the ear of an EU negotiator and hoping he doesn’t mess it up.”
He continued: “On at least two occasions in the past year, EU negotiators have unilaterally traded away the interests of Scotland’s fishermen in order to give advantages to other EU countries.
“This should not be allowed to continue. If we vote leave and take control, we will retake our own seat at the table during these crucial fisheries negotiations relating to the North Sea.
“If we vote leave and take control we would re-establish national control for 200 nautical miles or the median line as provided for in international law.
“We would then be in the strongest possible position to re-open the issue of so called “relative stability” and argue for a fairer share of quota allocations in many fish stocks,” he added.