UK Government seizes post-Brexit freedoms for fishing industry

New measures will support thriving fishing industry

  • Package of measures will help fishing industry thrive and deliver a healthier marine environment
  • Reforms seize new freedoms outside the EU and mark a clear departure from the Common Fisheries Policy
  • Announcement builds on investment and uplift in fisheries opportunities worth more than £200 million

The UK Government has today set out further steps to deliver a thriving, sustainable fishing industry and healthy marine environment for generations to come.

Seizing the opportunities of our freedoms outside the EU, the UK is introducing a world class system of fisheries management which draws on the best available science and the expertise of our fishermen to ensure our fish stocks are healthy and sustainable long into the future

This new system will be underpinned by Fisheries Management Plans – blueprints for how best to manage fish stocks – with the first six published today, including bass, king scallops, crab and lobster; amazing produce which we are renowned for around the world.

These management plans – developed together with industry and anglers over 18 months – deliver commitments from the Fisheries Act 2020 and will help to build a modern, resilient fishing industry while securing sustainable fish stocks. These plans will be a combination of actions that can be taken now to protect stocks – such as seasonal closures or further scientific studies – and longer-term approaches, using the latest scientific evidence so we have the most productive and sustainable sector possible.

Today’s announcement includes a boost for the small under 10 metre vessels which are the lifeblood of our coastal communities, making use of our post Brexit quota increases by removing a cap on the amount of quota they can use and opening up more potential income for smaller businesses.

There will also be a consultation launching the government’s vision for remote electronic monitoring (REM) in English waters, setting out the proposed approach and next steps. REM systems include cameras, gear sensors and GPS units, and will ensure our management plans are supported by robust evidence and data. This cutting-edge technology can gather data while fishing boats are at sea, including on the amount, size and species of fish which are being caught. They will also be able to record information on accidental bycatch of sea birds or whales and dolphins. The information REM can deliver will support the fishing industry to manage stocks sustainably for the benefit of future generations and give fish buyers and retailers greater confidence in the sustainability of our fish.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey, said:

“The UK has some of the finest fish stocks in the world, forming an integral part of healthy marine ecosystems while providing livelihoods, enjoyment and prosperity to coastal communities.

“Today’s reforms mark a clear departure from the outdated Common Fisheries Policy now we are an independent coastal state, and will deliver the UK’s ambition to build a modern, resilient and profitable fishing industry underpinned by sustainable fish stocks and a healthy marine environment for the future.”

Mike Cohen, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said:

“For centuries, fishing has produced food, provided jobs and supported communities. Measures to strengthen fishing businesses and enhance their sustainable growth will bring tangible benefits to the UK.

“Fisheries Management Plans represent a genuinely ambitious attempt to break away from the unsuccessful top-down impositions of the CFP and unite fishers, scientists and regulators in building something new and better. Fishermen’s livelihoods depend on healthy seas and sensible regulations. We welcome this opportunity to collaborate in shaping them.”

The government has also announced that it is:

  • Setting out a new approach to managing discards in England which will support the long-term future of the English fishing fleet and coastal communities whilst protecting our marine environment and the fish stocks that industry depends on;
  • Consulting on the establishment of a licensed recreational bluefin catch and release tuna fishery, providing economic opportunities for coastal towns and rural communities;
  • Awarding a further £45.6 million from the UK Seafood Fund to modernise infrastructure across the UK seafood sector and ensure we are using the best research for fisheries management, and support around 1,500 jobs;
  • Responding to a consultation on flyseining (a method of trawl fishing) to provide some immediate protection for squid stocks and wider demersal non-quota species; and
  • Publishing a summary of responses to a consultation on spatial management of sandeels, with a majority of respondents being in favour of the option to fully close industrial sandeel fishing in English waters of the North Sea.

These reforms will play a crucial role in achieving the goals in our Environmental Improvement Plan and the UK Government’s Food Strategy, helping to improve food security as well as levelling up some of our much-loved coastal towns and communities.

Today’s announcement builds on the progress which the UK government has already made to deliver a thriving fishing sector outside the EU. The UK government successfully negotiated a significant uplift in quota shares following EU exit, valued at around £101 million in fishing opportunities to the UK fleet this year alone. Meanwhile the UK Seafood Fund is investing £100 million into the long-term future of the UK fisheries sector, helping to drive innovation, support job creation and boost seafood exports to new markets.

Defra and partner organisations are running online and in-person events throughout August and early September for those with an interest in the commercial and recreational fishing and the marine environment, to find out more about the reforms and how they can respond to the consultations. All events will be listed on Eventbrite.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP