Benefits to the UK fishing industry from Brexit are falling far short of the government rhetoric, according to analysis by researchers from the University of York, the New Economics Foundation, the University of Lincoln and ABPmer.
The government’s promises of radical reforms to help the industry take back control of UK waters and increase quota shares, while minimising trade impacts, are ‘starkly at odds’ with the reality of what has been achieved, says their report.
Despite government statements that Brexit would result in hundreds of thousands of tonnes of extra catch for UK fishermen, the report calculates that the increase will only reach 107,000t per year, or 12.4% by value for all species, by 2025.
Additionally, UK fisheries management continues in a state of interdependence with EU legislation; significant EU access to UK waters remains, including in the 6-12nm zone; and new regulations and logistical barriers brought in by the Brexit TCA mean that exporting seafood costs more and takes longer, say the researchers.
Lead author of the study Dr Bryce Stewart, from the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York, said: “Government promises on Brexit and its benefits for the fishing industry were far in excess of what could be delivered. The industry became an icon of Brexit, with claims it would correct past injustices and breathe new life into neglected coastal communities, but our study reveals the stark delivery gap between rhetoric and reality.”
Co-author Suzannah Walmsley, a fisheries and aquaculture specialist at ABPmer, added: “There was much talk about ‘zonal attachment’, where quota shares are determined based on the proportion of fish stocks in each party’s waters. Our analysis of just 24 out of more than 100 stocks included in the deal shows that it falls short of this by at least 229,000t or £281m.”
In the absence of a full government analysis of Brexit effects on fisheries, the researchers analysed all available data on quotas, landings and the proportions of different species living in UK waters.
Dr Stewart said: “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, particularly those in small boats, have seen few if any benefits, so due to new challenges around trade are likely to be worse off.
“Many people in coastal communities who were pinning their hopes on post-Brexit reforms feel betrayed, and this comes at a significant cost to their wellbeing and mental health.”
‘The Brexit deal and United Kingdom fisheries – has reality matched the rhetoric?’ can be read here.
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.