Public backs higher fines for illegal overfishing post-Brexit

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 16 April 2018

A poll for the environmental legal charity, ClientEarth, reveals four out of five people would support new laws to protect fish stocks from overfishing after the UK leaves the European Union.

fishing vessels
© William Murphy

To ensure our fisheries resources can recover and keep play these vital roles long into the future, we need all four UK administrations to work closely together and commit to core principles of sustainability and best practice.

Samuel Stone,
Head of Fisheries and Aquaculture

Some 84% backed laws for sustainable fishing, while there was a similar level of support (82%) for an increase in government fines for illegal overfishing.

More than half (55%) think the government’s priority should be protecting fish stocks from overfishing in Brexit negotiations, compared to 26% who thought ministers should prioritise getting UK fishermen a bigger share of stocks.

Samuel Stone, MCS Head of Fisheries and Aquaculture, says the survey clearly highlights the public desire to have healthy and abundant fish stocks no matter what transpires when the UK leaves the EU.

ClientEarth called for politicians to “stop playing politics with the ocean” and said the polling showed people wanted strong laws to ensure fishing takes place in a way the seas can support. The YouGov poll found Some 87% of the 1,845 people polled agreed the industry should be required to fish in a way that protects marine life, and 79% said they believed the government had a moral duty to ensure sustainable fishing.

When the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer be part of the Common Fisheries Policy, which governs fishing and management of fish stocks across the bloc’s waters. However, the EU will continue to control UK waters until the end of 2020 and will be consulted on future fishing quotas as part of the Brexit transition deal. A white paper, due this spring, will be pivotal to the future of UK fisheries.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said taking back control of UK fishing policy will enable a “more competitive, profitable and sustainable” fishing industry, though fisheries are likely to be a contentious area of negotiations.

ClientEarth fisheries lawyer, Amy Hill, said the results from the survey showed people “overwhelmingly support” sustainable fishing laws and for the government to prevent overfishing after Brexit: “Blue Planet II showed us the immense pressures that are facing the ocean. We need sustainable fishing laws that better protect our ocean and the marine life that depends on it.

“Some MPs should stop playing politics with the ocean. Healthy fish populations will ensure a profitable fishing industry and healthy seas for everyone,” she said.

Samuel Stone added: “Our fisheries are a shared public resource that not only provide food and employment for thousands, but also play a vital role in supporting a healthy and biologically diverse marine environment that is needed to support life as we know it.

“To ensure our fisheries resources can recover and keep play these vital roles long into the future, we need all four UK administrations (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales) to work closely together and commit to core principles of sustainability and best practice.”

MCS is working in a coalition of leading NGO’s – Greener UK – which is calling on all the UK administrations to ensure that the following five principles are enshrined into new primary fisheries legislation:

HOLISTIC Ecosystem based approach: managing fish as a public resource and an integral part of healthy ocean ecosystems, and taking account of the cumulative impact of human activities on the environment.

SUSTAINABLE All fish stocks restored and maintained above biomass levels capable of producing the maximum sustainable yield.

SCIENCE-LED Fisheries management decisions based on the best available science.

ACCOUNTABLE Fully transparent and accountable fisheries where catches, both target and non-target, are fully documented, infringements are properly enforced and fisheries are effectively controlled.

FAIR Fishing opportunities are allocated on the basis of transparent and objective environmental, social and economic criteria, in a way that incentivises the most sustainable fishing.

Actions you can take

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Did you know?…

Farmed marine fin fish production in Scotland is estimated to increase by 30% between 2014-2020

Farmed fish and shellfish production will have to increase by 133% by 2050 to meet projected seafood demand worldwide

1 billion people, largely in developing countries, rely on fish as their primary source of animal protein

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