Waves splashing on the blue sea

Fisheries laws must continue to tackle overfishing after Brexit

New fisheries laws for UK waters must put sustainability at the heart of post-Brexit fisheries management. Leaks confirm that Westminster, at least, intends for new fisheries legislation to be in place before the UK leaves the European Union.

Eight environmental organisations, including ClientEarth, are urging the UK and devolved governments to ensure fisheries laws after Brexit will continue to tackle overfishing. A recent poll by Oceana revealed that two thirds of people in the UK are unconvinced that Brexit will help stop overfishing.

As a leading voice in the reform of the EU’s fisheries policy, the UK has helped shape policies to reverse the damage done by overfishing. New domestic fishing legislation should continue this positive work.

In line with the governments’ ambition to become world leaders in sustainable fisheries management, future policy should be science-based, following scientific advice when setting fishing limits to ensure fish stocks remain sustainable in the future.

The organisations have published 10 principles for governments to follow to help build a brighter future for our seas. These include effective legislation that goes beyond current EU commitments, and the setting of sustainable fishing levels.

The principles unveiled by ClientEarth, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Society, New Economics Foundation, The Pew Trusts, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and WWF-UK set out how governments can build a brighter future for our seas. They highlight the need for:

  • Effective legislation that meets the governments’ ambition to be world leaders in sustainable fisheries management.
  • Good governance that includes a clear and transparent process of stakeholder engagement and decision making.
  • Sustainable fishing levels and accountability – legal requirement to fish below a level that allows fish stocks to fully recover, and to be fully accountable for all fish caught.

Catherine Weller, Head of Biodiversity Programme, ClientEarth, said: “Brexit must not mean lower environmental protection for marine life. Overfishing, catches of vulnerable species and damage to marine habitats are some of the major issues facing the seas around the UK. To create a sustainable future for the UK’s seas and the communities which depend on them, strong environmental protection must be built into the new fishing laws.”

A new legal framework would also set high standards for foreign fishing vessels seeking access to UK waters and guide us as we look to negotiate the multiple new agreements that will be required to allow our fishing fleets continued access to waters they have previously fished under European Union arrangements.

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Damian Entwistle

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