Energy and Environment

IEA sets out framework for independent UK Fisheries policy


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IEA releases report on fisheries policy post-Brexit

With Brexit, the UK has the opportunity to regain control over, and develop a modern and successful fisheries policy.

Under the Common Fisheries Policy, the British fishing industry has been in decline. These policies have failed to protect fish stocks, frustrated ordinary competitive forces with protectionist subsidies, and stifled innovation and investment in the industry with catastrophic effects on our coastal communities.

The UK’s new independent policy must ensure a viable future for commercial industry, guarantee sustainability and protect consumers from high prices simultaneously.

A new report from the Institute of Economic Affairs sets out a policy framework for a new UK Fisheries Policy (UKFP) that is designed to fulfil all these priorities, assuming that the UK is able to strike an independent regulatory and trade policy.

A framework for a UK Fisheries Policy post-Brexit

Ensuring access to waters

Given we acquire most of our fish from UK waters there is less of a need for the UK to access other countries’ waters, which provides the UK with a strong negotiating hand in talks for total allowable catches allocations. The UK should use this leverage to ensure allocations are fair.

•   The UK should join regional and national fisheries management organisations to have a seat at the table in negotiations on total allowable catches for various fish stocks.

•   The UK should prioritise negotiation bilateral agreements with the EU, Norway, iceland and the Faroe Islands.

UK fisheries management

The current system of Fixed Quota Allocations is distortive and anti-competitive, as it creates barriers to entry and favours incumbents.

•   A system of transferable quotas should be implemented where auctions can be used to ensure more competition and less advantage for incumbents.

•   To avoid discards caused by lack of quotas, the UKFP should introduce risk pools or quota bundles to enable quick and effective transfers of quotas between fishermen.

•   To remove barriers to entry, there needs to be a fair and transparent allocation mechanism for fishing rights.

•   There should be a multi-year system of fishing rights to support new and young fishermen and incentivise investment.

•   There should be an effective mechanism put in place for quick and easy transfer of rights to optimise utilisation.

•   The government should also examine the possibility of a ‘days at sea’ trial to limit the effect of incumbency and give opportunities to smaller fishing vessels.

Funding and government support

•   Subsidies should be phased out in favour of other mechanisms to encourage competition

•   It may be necessary to provide interim support, such as covering the costs of fitting new monitoring systems.

•   The UK should consider developing a market for insurance products to guard against the impact of fluctuating stocks.

Trade in fish

The UK is a net importer of fish. In general, it tends to import what it eats and export what it catches. And in terms of regulations, many current measures are anti-competitive, distortive and not based on scientific evidence.

•   Tariffs for seafood consumed but not caught in the UK should be reduced to bring down costs for consumers.

•   The UK should diverge from EU standards and new standards should be based on scientific evidence, comply with international standards and aim to be as least trade and market-distortive as possible.

•   A UK-EU Free Trade Agreement must include a fisheries chapter that must include a range of provisions, including on mutual recognition of standards and application of import conditions.

•   The UK should join the Friends of Fish group within the WTO to advocate the addition of a fisheries schedule to the WTO.


This is the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Developing a vibrant UK aquaculture industry could support sustainable access to fish products, increase employment in the industry, be a guard against price shocks for UK consumers, and encourage better and more responsible stewardship of fish stocks.

The government should support the development of the industry by:

•    Appropriate site planning
•    Streamlining planning processes
•    Ensuring efficiency in the licence allocation system
•    Incentivising the development of advanced techniques while limiting the environmental impacts


•   Devolution of aspects of fisheries policy such as Tariff Rate Quotas and access to Exclusive Economic Zones would lead to fragmentation of the UK Single Market and create significant challenges in international negotiations.

Commenting on the report, Shanker Singham, Director of the IEA’s International Trade and Competition Unit, said:

“Unconstrained by the Common Fisheries Policy and EU regulatory barriers, the UK has an opportunity to define its own fisheries policy. Following this new framework, the government can ensure there is a viable future for commercial fishing in UK waters once again, at the same time as ensuring sustainability and access for consumers to affordable, good quality fish products.”

Notes to editors:

For media enquiries please contact Nerissa Chesterfield, Head of Communications: [email protected]  020 7799 8920 or 07791 390 268

To download the IEA’s “Net Gain” please click here.

For more research from the IEA on fisheries policy, click here.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems and seeks to provide analysis in order to improve the public understanding of economics.

The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.