The EU Common Fisheries Policy failed British fishermen – here’s what should replace it post-Brexit

The EU Common Fisheries Policy failed British fishermen – here’s what should replace it post-Brexit

During the referendum, those on the Remain side defended all sorts of aspects of EU membership, from free movement to the Customs Union to the European Arrest Warrant and the role of the ECJ. No-one defended its fisheries policy.

The Common Fisheries Policy, replacing the role of nation states in managing their own waters, has led to overfishing of stocks, forced discards of edible fish and devastation for small fisheries in the UK which have suffered from quota hopping. Leaving the European Union and its CFP provides the UK with an incredible opportunity to right these wrongs and pursue a fisheries policy that promotes sustainable, profitable fisheries that better serve British consumers. A new report from the IEA, released today, outlines how this might be achieved.

The three goals for a successful fisheries policy should be that it is environmentally sustainable, profitable for fishermen and benefits consumers. On all counts the CFP has failed.

A sustainable fisheries industry is to the benefit of all parties, yet subsidised overcapacity and a frequent disregard for scientific advice on quota setting led nearly 90% of fish stocks in a 2009 review to be fished beyond Maximum Sustainable Yield. We recommend the UK participating in regional and national management organisations in order to have a direct say in negotiations on allowable catch.

The EU’s Relative Stability Key unfairly harms the UK and has not been updated since 1983. It should be abandoned. Instead, the UK should negotiate with regional partners based on the latest scientific evidence on migration patterns of shared stocks and equity with respect to the value of different stocks. The UK’s unusual position in requiring relatively little access to other nations Exclusive Economic Zones should strengthen its hand in ensuring a more equitable allocation of fishing quotas.

Domestically, the UK should move away from the incumbent favouring Fixed Quota Allocation system and towards a system of transferable quotas allocated via auction to ensure better competition. Risk pools or quota bundles should also be introduced to avoid the problem of discards in mixed fisheries. The Government should also examine the possibility of a properly controlled days-at-sea trial that could give better opportunity to smaller vessels.

Even though the UK largely exports what it catches and imports what it eats, high EU tariffs on fisheries products harm UK consumers at little benefit to producers. As part of an independent trade policy the UK should lower tariffs on fish. At the same time, many EU standards are anti-competitive and not based on scientific evidence; the UK must be able to diverge from these and comply with international market standards, while also reducing regulatory barriers both at home and to imports. Such a step would be of particular help to developing nations for whom fisheries exports are far greater than all other agriculture.

On negotiations with the EU, any Free Trade Agreement should include a fisheries chapter covering mutual recognition of standards, as well as other provisions such as on import controls. To strengthen the UK’s hand, negotiating bilateral agreements with regional partners should be prioritized.

Finally, the UK should look to the future of fisheries by supporting the development of a vibrant UK aquaculture industry, such as through streamlining of the planning process and an efficient system of allocating licences.

The report released today outlines and explains key steps in achieving a UK Fisheries Policy that succeeds for fish stocks, fishermen and consumers where the CFP has failed and that is an asset to the UK in pursuing its wider interests through an independent trade and regulatory policy. Such an opportunity cannot and should not be missed.