The momentous decision by the UK in 2016 to leave the EU (so called Brexit) was met with celebration by many in the fishing industry. Campaigns in the proceeding months had been dominated by calls to take back ‘our fish’ and control of ‘our waters’, largely because of the perceived failure of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and under-allocation of fish quotas to the UK. However, since then the reality and complexity of the UK’s situation has become apparent, exemplified by the fact that during the transition period at least (March 2019-December 2020), UK fisheries will continue to be managed by EU, without the UK having a say over how this is done (i.e. a worse situation than before). Nevertheless, UK fisheries management will eventually be reformed through Brexit and this offers an opportunity for greater ambition, for sustainability to take centre stage, and for longer-term thinking. Based on a series of stakeholder surveys and workshops, along with analysis of fish distribution data, fisheries catches and seafood market trends, colleagues and myself have aimed to chart a more positive future for UK fisheries. We provide three key recommendations: 1) Sharing the management of UK fisheries and maintaining good relations with the EU and other relevant countries will be essential for ensuring sustainability and maintaining favourable trade in seafood, 2) Zero to low tariff trade in both exported and imported seafood is essential for ensuring the profitable sale of the fish the UK catches, and the affordability of the seafood the UK consumes; 3) Ultimately, the success of fisheries relies on a healthy marine environment. Existing marine environmental regulations should be improved, not weakened, during the Brexit process. I argue that these findings provide a blueprint for how fisheries management should be approached in an international context, which will become increasingly important as fish abundance and distribution changes globally with climate change.
Bryce is a marine ecologist and fisheries biologist whose work has ranged from temperate estuaries to tropical coral reefs and the deep-sea. He gained a BSc(Hons) in Zoology from the University of Melbourne, and a PhD in marine biology from James Cook University, before moving to the United Kingdom (UK) in 1999. The central thread in his research has been to gain an increased understanding of the factors regulating marine populations and communities so as to ensure their sustainable utilisation. Most recently his focus has been on how to improve the management of fisheries and marine ecosystems by using predictive models, marine protected areas and by reducing discards. Since 2016 he has been particularly involved with assessing the effects of Brexit on UK fisheries and the marine environment, and helping to plan for future reform of management, by working with a wide range of stakeholders and the Government. He published several reports on the subject and given oral evidence to both the House of Lords and House of Parliament.