Brexit 'does not deliver government promises on fishing industry', new study reveals


The government promised radical reforms to help the fishing industry regain control of British waters and increase quota shares. Credit: Dr. Bryce Stewart, University of York

The benefits of British fishing from Brexit “are far from the government’s rhetoric,” a new study has revealed.

The report, a collaboration between the University of York, the New Economics Foundation, the University of Lincoln and the marine consultancy ABPmer, found that while the government promised radical reforms to help industry regain control of British waters and increase quota shares (all while minimizing) trade effects ), this is in stark contrast to the reality of what has been achieved.

Despite government statements that Brexit would result in hundreds of thousands of metric tonnes of extra catch for British fishermen, research estimated that the increase will only reach 107,000 tonnes a year, or 12.4 percent in value for all species, by 2025.


Britain’s fisheries management also continues in a state of interdependence with significant EU access to British waters back, including in the six to 12 nautical miles off the British coast, which the government claimed would be held exclusively for British boats.

New rules and logistical barriers brought about by the Brexit trade agreement also mean that exports of seafood cost more and take longer, so fish are less fresh and customers have been lost, the researchers say.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Bryce Stewart, from the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York, said: “The Government’s promises on Brexit and its benefits for fishing industry was far beyond what could be delivered. The industry became an icon of Brexit, claiming it would correct past injustices and breathe new life into neglected coastal communities, but our study reveals the sharp supply gap between rhetoric and reality. “

New challenges

The researchers analyzed all available data on catch quotas, actual landings and the proportion of different fish species living in British waters.

Dr. Stewart added: “Most of the significant increases in catch quotas are for just a few fisheries such as western mackerel and North Sea sole and herring. Most fishermen, especially those in small boats, have seen few if any benefits, so due to new trade challenges will probably be worse off.

“Many people in coastal communities who put their hopes in post-Brexit reforms feel betrayed and it has a significant cost to their well-being and mental health.”

Co-author Suzannah Walmsley, fisheries and aquaculture specialist at ABPmer, added: “There was a lot of talk about ‘zoning’, where quota shares are determined by the share of fish stocks in each party’s waters. Our analysis of only 24 out of more than 100 shares included in the agreement shows that it does not live up to this with at least 229,000 tonnes or £ 281 million. “


However, researchers note that Brexit may bring some benefits to the environment, as it has allowed Britain to regain autonomy to designate offshore garden protected areas, something that was difficult inside the EU as it required agreement between all member states.

For example, this has enabled a proposal to protect Dogger Bank – a large sandbank in a shallow area of ​​the North Sea. The area, which was once incredibly productive for marine life, has been the subject of intense fishing for centuries.

Dr. Stewart said: “While Brexit may bring some benefits to the environment, the government’s failure to fulfill its promises to coastal communities will have further eroded confidence in its motives and brought home the need for an end to exaggerated political promises. Future reform decisions must be evidence-based and made The United Kingdom Government is facing a challenging start in fisheries management outside the Common Fisheries Policy. ”

Redefining “small-scale” fishing to support English fishing

More information:
Bryce D. Stewart et al, the Brexit agreement and British fisheries – has reality matched the rhetoric ?, Maritime Studies (2022). DOI: 10.1007 / s40152-022-00259-0

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University of York

Citation: Brexit ‘does not deliver government promises on fishing industry’, reveals new study (2022, February 2) retrieved July 18, 2022 from

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