Will Fisheries Bill Create ‘Sustainable, Profitable’ Industry?

The government states that the bill creates powers to build a sustainable, profitable UK fishing industry and deliver a Green Brexit with new protections for our precious marine environment, however, the New Economics Foundation is sceptical.

Legislation creating the powers the UK needs to operate as an independent coastal state after leaving the EU was introduced into parliament on 25 October.

For the first time since 1973, the Fisheries Bill will enable the UK to control who may fish in our waters and on what terms.

The bill also gives the UK the power to implement new deals negotiated with the EU and with other coastal states and manage fisheries more effectively and sustainably in future.


At its heart the bill delivers on the UK government’s commitment to sustainable fishing and marine conservation as set out in the 25-Year Environment Plan by:

  • Controlling access – by ending current automatic rights for EU vessels to fish in UK waters. In future, access to fish in UK waters will be a matter for the UK to negotiate and we will decide on the terms – foreign vessels would have to follow our rules.
  • Setting fishing opportunities – by proposing powers to ensure that the UK can set its own fishing quota and days at sea, which it will negotiate as an independent coastal State. As now, the UK government will consult the Devolved Administrations.
  • Protecting the marine environment – by ensuring fisheries management decisions are taken strategically for the benefit of the whole marine environment. The Bill extends powers to the Marine Management Organisationand the Devolved Administrations to protect our seas.


The government stated: “We do not yet know the outcome of the UK’s negotiations to withdraw from the EU or on a future economic partnership, but we have been clear that market access for fisheries products is separate to the question of fishing opportunities and access to waters. The bill will give us the powers to implement the result of those negotiations.”


The new legislation also proposes ways in which the UK government and the Devolved Administrations will work together to adopt common approaches to fisheries management in certain areas – including preserving UK vessels’ right to fish across the four zones of UK waters and creating a consistent approach to managing access of foreign vessels.

The four fisheries Administrations will set out in a joint statement how they will work together to achieve the Bill’s sustainability objectives.


The bill also provides powers to reform fisheries rules. To ensure legal continuity, the EU (Withdrawal) Act transferred Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) rules into UK law. This bill allows government to amend fisheries legislation to respond to scientific advice and innovation quickly – something the CFP failed to do – and to meet our international obligations.


In addition, the Fisheries Bill introduces powers to create new schemes in England to help seize the opportunities of Brexit. These include:

  • a new scheme to help the fishing industry comply with the landing obligation to end the wasteful discarding of fish, and
  • powers to tender additional English quota.


The New Economics Foundation (NEF), however, is sceptical. It thinks that the UK won’t move to a more sustainable fishing model while so much power rests with the usual voices lobbying in the fisheries debate.

The NEF has created a parliamentary briefing voicing their concerns.  

They have also produced a film, ‘Fishing after Brexit, Voices from the Coast’ that presents the often unheard voices of the small scale fishers whose fishing methods have low impact on the marine environment.

External Sources

Government UK: Gove Launches Fisheries Bill To take Control of UK Waters

New Economics Foundation website