A modernised UK fishing industry can have a profitable and sustainable long-term future, says new report

The UK’s fishing industry can be profitable and sustainable in the long term but must modernise to meet global competition, says a new report from the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit.

The report – ‘Net benefits: A Sustainable and Profitable Future for UK Fishing’ – which is published today, proposes a possible long-term strategy for improving the fortunes of the industry and the communities which depend upon it.

It emphasises that success would depend on bringing the industry and other stakeholders into a partnership with government over management decisions.

The report also says that that the fishing industry will gain more from the UK staying in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) but at the same time calls for major reforms to the CFP, especially to allow regional management of fisheries.

 Prime Minister Tony Blair said: ‘There is widespread concern about the future of the UK’s fishing industry.  That is why I asked the Strategy Unit to assess the issues facing the UK marine fishing industry and recommend action to create a stable future both for the industry itself and for the communities that depend upon it.

‘I welcome the results and echo its calls for all the key players to come together to manage the resources – whether their interest is in scientific and environmental matters, the catching and processing industry, or in tourism and development. 

‘Now I want the UK to give a lead in reforming the Common Fisheries Policy – by pushing the European Union further down the path of managing fish stocks on a regional level. This will give us more influence over the type of management regimes that best suit our fishing waters.’

The report has been presented to the UK Government as well as Fisheries Ministers for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, for their consideration.

Ben Bradshaw, Minister for Nature Conservation and Fisheries and Sponsor Minister for this project, said:

‘This report conveys the very important message that the UK fishing industry can be profitable in the long term, provided that it modernises to meet global competition.

‘It offers an extremely valuable and detached analysis of the situation in British fishing, which we must now use as the catalyst for taking the industry and its stakeholders forward. 

‘The report rightly says that a more developed partnership approach is needed if implementation is to be successful. We must now explore and discuss the report in depth, and it is important that this is a fully inclusive process.’


Notes to Editors

Copies of the report ‘Net benefits: A Sustainable and Profitable Future for UK Fishing’ are available on the Strategy Unit web site (www.strategy.gov.uk).


Key recommendations of the SU report include:

1. Creating a competitive and profitable UK fleet

Long-term profitability and stock recovery will require the removal of at least 13% of the whitefish fleet beyond the 2003 decommissioning scheme.

Introducing individual tradable quotas to promote competition and give the industry a greater stake in the state of the stock.

The industry should seek sustainable fisheries certification (by the Marine Stewardship Council or equivalent) for all major UK stocks by 2015.

2. Improving information and compliance

The report says sustainability of fish stocks is only possible if the vast majority of the industry supports and obeys the rules. Without this, stock recovery and effective management is undermined. Improving compliance is about higher profits, better trust, effective enforcement and good rules. The SU report proposes:

decriminalisation of most existing offences and replacement with administrative penalties;

introduction of a smarter enforcement system. For example creating more emphasis on tracing landings through flows of money through processors and using on-board observers for high-risk boats and risk-profiling;

better transparency and sharing of information. For example publishing all catches and landings on the Internet and arranging for the data collected from fishermen to the markets and fishery departments to be submitted via electronic logbooks;

the UK to continue to support a stronger EU enforcement role and ensure a level playing field for all EU fleets;and

in areas where fisherman have little control over the species of fish they catch, such as in the North Sea, Irish Sea and Channel mixed fisheries, that an investigation is made into the feasibility of restricting the amount of days fished instead of the amount of fish caught.

3. Regionalising EU management and decentralising UK management

All UK fisheries have unique biological and economic characteristics so management has to be tailored to circumstances of each fishery. The UK has no option but to manage many of its stocks jointly with other EU countries which share its waters. The CFP reforms in 2002 remove some of the biggest stumbling blocks to sustainability but more needs to be done to bring decision making closer. Key steps include:

UK should work to progressively regionalise the management functions of the CFP, while also strengthening the EU’s work to create a level playing field through issues such as audit, enforcement and environment;

creation of regional fishery managers for the North Sea, Channel, Irish Sea and Western approaches by 2005, along with national managers for inshore/shellfish;

giving regional managers the authority to set management approaches and task and fund scientific research;

ensuring that the industry have a clear role in co-commissioning research, and coordinating information; and provide other stakeholders with clearly defined advisory roles inside the regional and inshore structures; and

giving fishery managers tighter control on capital investment in boats to prevent ’boom and bust’ cycles in the fishing industry.

4. Providing community and environmental gains

Some remote and vulnerable communities depend upon the fishing industry and special steps are needed in these areas.


The report’s proposals include:

considering the use of community quotas to assist vulnerable and dependent fishing communities; reducing the volatility in stock by adopting a ’large stock’ strategy. This would mean reducing the amount of fish caught in the short term for long-term benefits;

introducing Strategic Environmental Assessments on major fisheries to fully understand the principal impacts of existing fishing practices on the marine environment;

introduce Environmental Impact Assessments when new gear is used or new fisheries opened up; and developing experimental marine protected areas, which provide benefits to multiple users (e.g: commercial fishing, tourism, recreational fishers).