UK Fisheries post-Brexit : The Management Principles

We reproduce here the summary of the report Net Gain — Opportunities for Britain’s Fishing Industry post-Brexit written  Shanker A. Singham  of the Institute of Economic Affairs.  This report concentrates on an economic perspective and explores how a British Fishing Policy can maximise the economic advantage for UK commercial fishing interests post-Brexit

In contrast, Marinet has tackled the same subject of Britain’s fishing policy post-Brexit from a conservation perspective, as well as the overall economic benefit.  This Marinet report UK Seas in Crisis : Will Brexit Change Things? thus offers an additional conservation-based viewpoint.

We now provide a glossary of acronyms, followed by the IEA summary of its report.

CFP                Common Fisheries Policy
EC                  European Commission
EEZ                Exclusive Economic Zone
FQA               Fixed Quota Allocation
FTA                Free Trade Agreement
ICES               International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
MSY                Maximum Sustainable Yield
NEAFC            North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission
RFMO            Regional Fisheries Management Organisation
SFPA               Sustainable Fishing Practice Agreement
SPS                 Sanitary and Phytosanitary
TAC                Total Allowable Catch
TBT                Technical Barriers to Trade
UNCLOSUNCLOS The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty.         United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
UNFSA            United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement
UKFP              United Kingdom Fisheries Policy

The primary objective of a UK fisheries policy should be to balance the goals of ensuring a viable future for commercial fishing in UK waters, ensuring sustainability, and enabling UK consumers to have access to cheaper fish and fish products. This should be based on a framework of minimising restrictions on trade and competition so that policies and regulations developed are least trade restrictive, least market distorting, based on sound science and consistent with clearly expressed regulatory and sustainability goals.

It is important to clearly state this overall objective at the outset, as much work in this area assumes that the objective is solely conservation, or to preserve a particular way of life or culture; similarly, no viable or sustainable industry can exist in the long-term without thoughtful conservation efforts. We consider that it is in the UK’s broader commercial interest to have a successful fishing industry.

The ability of UK fisheries to thrive outside the European Union will depend upon:

1. The demarcation of the UK’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone;

2. The protection and fair division of fishing stocks that are shared between the UK/EU/Norwegian/Faroese/Icelandic waters;

3. The tariff and regulatory measures imposed on UK fisheries products sold into the EU and other major markets;

4. The ability of the UK government to negotiate expanded access for UK fisheries products into third-country markets;

5. Development of an effective fisheries management system that addresses UK-specific challenges, such as incumbency and barriers created by the domestic quota system; and

6. Embracing innovative types of production, notably aquaculture.

The UK should begin negotiations, as a matter of urgency, on reciprocal access to exclusive economic zones with the EU, Norway, Iceland and Faroe Islands, as well as the approach to negotiating total allowable catch allocations of shared fish stocks. These should come into effect at the conclusion of the implementation period, on December 2020. However given that the implementation period is only applicable if the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by both sides, we strongly advise the UK government to prepare as if it will be fully out of the EU, March, 2019. This means expediting the negotiations.

Domestically, the UK can start developing its own fisheries management system, such as a days at sea system, which would address the specific challenges of demersaldemersal Living on the seabed mixed fisheries in UK waters. The system should be further designed in such a way as to address the other challenges with the current quota allocation system, such as the benefits provided to incumbents. An effective and successful fisheries management system would have to be designed with stakeholder consultation, including the fishing industry, scientists and local coastal communities. The UK can begin on this process and start trialling and refining a new fisheries management system now, subject to EU national quotas and regulatory constraints, while still within the CFP, as the management and enforcement of national quotas is still a UK competence.

With the withdrawal from the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy, there is a singular opportunity to reshape Britain’s fisheries policy which brings with it the responsibility for the government and key stakeholders to answer this question: what should British fishing look like in twenty-five years?

Key findings and proposals

1.    Opportunity to develop a UK Fisheries Policy

1.1. The UK has the opportunity to develop its own UK Fisheries Policy,once it withdraws from the EU and the CFP.

1.2. Policymakers should define clearly the objectives of a future UK fisheries policy, and design measures to achieve these effectively. The primary objective of a UK fisheries policy should be to balance the goals of ensuring a viable future for commercial fishing in UK waters, while ensuring sustainability, and enabling UK consumers to have access to cheaper fish and fish products.

1.3. In order to limit unnecessary costs for both producers and consumers, future UK fisheries policy should be as least trade-distortive as possible, consistent with regulatory goals.

1.4. In order to provide lower prices, better value and more choice, future UK fisheries policy should be as least anti-competitive as possible consistent with regulatory goals.

1.5. Any future UK fisheries policy will need to be set in the context of the international framework for fisheries, in particular UNCLOS and UNFSA.

1.6. The UKFP should learn from the development of the CFP, and undertake cost-benefit analysis of various regulations to determine their applicability within a UKFP. Some elements could be retained initially for continuity, suchas specific technical measures. Others, such as access to waters and SPS/TBT issues, should be adapted immediately upon withdrawal from the CFP.

1.7. In order to support a fisheries policy, the UK should enhance its existing scientific advisory body and actively engage in ICES.

2. Access to waters and management of quotas

 2.1. Within the international framework, the UK should seek to join the NEAFC and consider what other RFMOs are relevant for the UK fisheries industry so that it can take part in international negotiations on the total allowable catch for various fish stocks, to ensure sustainability internationally.

2.2. The UK should prioritise negotiating bilateral agreements with the EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands on access to respective EEZs and management of fish stocks as a matter of urgency. These negotiations should be in conjunction with negotiations with these countries on the process and methodology for determining TACs for shared and straddling fish stocks.

2.3. The relatively lower needs of the UK for access to other countries’ EEZs strengthens its position when negotiating TACs, and the UK should ensure that it properly uses this leverage and that its TAC allocations are equitable.

2.4. The UK should consider what other SFPAs it should seek to replicate to provide support for developing countries, whilst also benefitting from access to more fish stocks for UK fishermen.

3. Fisheries management

 3.1. The UKFP should address the barriers to entry for new fishermen created by the FQA system, which favours incumbents, and instead have a system that maximises competition and trade liberalisation. The UK should consider the development of a fair and transparent allocation mechanism for fishing rights, such as through auctions, in order to eliminate the worst effects of incumbency.

3.2. The current domestic system of FQAs and quotas also does not effectively address the challenges of mixed fisheries in the UK.

3.3. The UKFP should have specific mechanisms to support fishermen to avoid discards caused by lack of quotas, such as the introduction of risk pools or quota bundles, to enable quick and effective transfers of quotas as required.

3.4. Policymakers should also conduct a “days at sea” trial with effort control, supported by with appropriate mechanisms to prevent overfishing. It should take into consideration the limited effectiveness of previous attempts due to lack of technology.

4. Funding and government support

 4.1. Subsidies to fishermen should be phased out as these may support inefficient production and limit competition and incentives for improved productivity.

4.2. The Government may need to provide interim support to transition to the new UKFP, such as for transitional costs in fitting new monitoring systems. Any such support should be directed and time limited.

4.3. A mechanism should be put in place to enable fishermen to seek remedies against imports that benefit from an unfair government distortion, in order to level the playing field and enable effective competition.

4.4. The UK should investigate the creation of markets for insurance products, so as to guard against the impact of fluctuating stocks.

5. Trade in fisheries products

 5.1. The UK is a net importer of fish, and tends to import what it eats, while exporting what it catches. Therefore there is a unique opportunity to support consumer and producer interests simultaneously.

5.2. The UK is generally not self-sufficient in the seafood it consumes, and currently imposes relatively high tariffs on imports under the Common External Tariff. A reduction in tariffs for the seafood consumed, but not commonly caught, in the UK would benefit consumers, with minimal damaging impact on domestic fishing.

5.3. The UK should sign a zero tariff agreement with Norway, which currently faces significant EU tariffs.

5.4. The UK should set regulatory barriers to the level that is consistent with the regulatory goal of promoting human, and animal health, but which is the least trade and market distortive, consistent with that goal, and should be based on scientific evidence.

5.5. The UK-EU Free Trade Agreement should include a comprehensive fisheries chapter, which will have to include a range of provisions, including on the mutual recognition of standards and application of import conditions, with a mechanism to manage any divergence in standards once the UK leaves the EU. Such divergence may well be quite limited, for instance there is little reason to diverge on standards for Shellfish & Lobsters, many of which are traded to the other EU 27.

5.6. The UK should join the Friends of Fish group within the WTO; and it should actively advocate in Geneva for the addition of a fisheries schedule to the WTO and for the successful conclusion of negotiations on fisheries subsidies.

5.7. The UK should recognise for the purposes of International Development that fisheries exports are much greater than all other agriculture for developing nations.

6. Aquaculture

 6.1. Aquaculture has the potential to support employment in the industry, be a guard against price shocks for UK consumers, and be a method by which the UK could more responsibly steward the resources of its territorial waters.

6.2. The Government can play a key role to support the further development of the industry through appropriate spatial management, stream=lining aquaculture planning processes, ensuring efficiency in the licence allocation system, and incentivising the development of advanced techniques while limiting negative externalities.

7. Devolution

 7.1. The distribution of powers within the current devolved settlements should be considered in the context within which they were initially agreed, i.e. accepting that the EU had central authority over certain aspects of policy, and the UK Government could not devolve powers that it did not itself have. This means that even though aspects of fisheries policies are already devolved to the four countries, it does not necessarily mean that other areas which the EU currently determines will automatically be devolved, once decision-making powers in these areas are repatriated to the UK.

7.2. Any devolution of aspects of fisheries management that currently sit with the EU, such as negotiations of TACs and access to the UK’s EEZ, would create fragmentation within the UK, and create significant challenges in international negotiations on access to EEZs, TACs and fisheries trade.

8. Implementation Period

 8.1 The EU has a duty of good faith to cause no damage to any exitingmember states, including during any sort of implementation period, which the UK should expect it to uphold.

8.2 Where the EU appears to have failed to uphold this duty, the UK should be prepared to act to protect its interests, including in beginning or expediting negotiations with third countries.


Source: The Institute of Economic Affairs published its report on 8th September 2018. For further details, see


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