Think Tanks
Printable version


New paper from the Adam Smith Institute urges the government to take back control of UK waters.

  • UK has a unique opportunity to rewrite its fishing policy following Brexit
  • European Common Fisheries Policy has savaged UK waters
  • 80% of fish caught in UK waters netted by foreign boats
  • 1.7 tonnes of fish dumped in the sea last year, some years as much as 50% of all fish caught thrown back dead or dying to the water
  • UK must follow Norway and Iceland and join environmental and commercial interest

A new paper released this morning by the Adam Smith Institute calls on the government to take back control of UK waters and bring an end to the billions of fish thrown back dead into the sea each year.

The report lays out a comprehensive ten point plan for how Britain can replenish its waters following Brexit and reveals the full extent of the damage caused by the European Common Fisheries Policy (ECFP).

The ECFP drastically limited the exclusivity of fishing waters in the UK from 200 miles off the coast to just 12 miles when it joined in 1973. This has allowed all EU member states to fish in UK waters, with British Sea Fishing estimating that 80% of catches are netted by foreign ships, often killing dolphins and porpoises in the process.

The EU’s Total Allowable Catch quota has led to the dumping of dead and dying edible fish back into the sea to the tune of 1.7 million tonnes a year. Some estimates even suggest that up to 50% of all fish caught is thrown dead back into the water. The catastrophic policy has decimated fish stocks in Europe and has lead to the systematic plundering of developing countries waters with heavily subsidised and oversized boats.

The UK has the chance to change this following its exit from the European Union, and marry commercial interest with environmental ones. The report urges that the UK must implement a fishing policy that is both sustainable and profitable by learning from the successful policies of Iceland and Norway, who are not part of the European Common Fisheries Policy.

The report recommends the following policies for the UK fishing industry upon withdrawal from the EU and its Common Fisheries Policy:

  1. Extension of Exclusive Economic Zone from 12 miles to the 200 miles from UK shores as specified by the United Nations International Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  2. Ban fishing in UK waters without specific consent and require all boats to be registered.
  3. Naval and air patrols over UK fishing waters to identify and intercept illegal fishing.
  4. Creation of a Maritime Research Institute tasked with monitoring fish stocks, examining the levels of the different species, mapping breeding grounds, and recording all catches made within UK waters.
  5. Creation of a National Fisheries Council to determine a total allowable catch for each species and assign a quota to each registered fishing vessel that is divisible and tradable. All catches must be landed, and if any exceed the quota, the vessel must trade or buy quotas from others.
  6. All boats fitted with satellite tracking devices, and their position constantly indexed.
  7. All catches size and species recorded on landing with information uploaded to a public database.
  8. UK fishing waters divided into administrative zones with the National Fisheries Council able to impose an immediate suspension of fishing in any areas where the sustainability of any fish stocks appears to be at risk.
  9. Inspections from the National Fisheries Council on any boat two times per year.
  10. The National Fisheries Council and the Maritime Research Council to publish all their information online, accessible to members of the public as well as to the industry.

Author of the paper and president of the Adam Smith Institute, Dr. Madsen Pirie, said:

“This ten-point action plan gives Britain a blueprint to reshape its entire fishing industry in the wake of Brexit. We have a chance to make UK fishing a viable and profitable enterprise, while pursuing a policy that restores and sustains fishing stocking within its waters.

“Vested interests, lobbying and political protection of national interests have taken more from the sea than it can put back. It is time for alternative policies to be explored and pursued.”

Notes to editors:

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Flora Laven-Morris, Head of Communications, at | 07584 778207.

The report “Catch of Today” is now live on the Adam Smith Institute website and can be accessed ahead of time here

The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.


Share this article

Latest News from
Think Tanks

Win a free accessibility audit or usability assessment worth £3,500!