government investment uk fishing industry

Marine conservation campaigners call for government investment in UK fishing to create over 14,000 jobs and generate £2 billion per year 

At least 14,000 jobs could be created as part of rejuvenated coastal communities if the Government invests £400 million per year for ten years, instead of the meagre compensation offered to cover losses to UK fishing communities associated with Brexit. 

A new report Net Worth, published today by Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming shows how investing in managing fisheries more fairly and sustainably would allow the UK industry and coastal communities – some of the areas worst hit by coronavirus and Brexit-related disruptions – to grow significantly and sustainably in terms of jobs and income, deliver the ‘sea of opportunity’ promised by Brexit, and give significant returns on investment in a remarkably short space of time. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has allocated some funds to compensate for losses caused by Brexit and Covid-19, including £23 million for exporting businesses. However, apart from an as yet unconfirmed £100 million, there are no plans to support the British fishing industry to flourish longer term. This report makes the case for a much larger investment of £400 million per year over a decade. It is calculated that this would allow fisheries to add more than £2 billion annually to GDP from increased catches and associated coastal economies, and would put an end to UK seafood being rejected by businesses over sustainability concerns. At present depleted fish stocks, poor data, and lack of independent verification of sustainability for UK seafood means the fishing industry is failing to meet its full potential.

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 Ruth Westcott, co-ordinator for sustainable fishing at Sustain said: 

“The opportunities for British fishing communities that were promised through Brexit must now be delivered by Government investment instead. The compensation package offered to the industry is money down the drain if it isn’t part of a bigger investment plan. If funding were focused on recovering marine ecosystems and fish stocks, and allocating fishing rights fairly, the industry and beleaguered coastal communities could thrive. Our evidence is clear, there are incredible gains to be had – for jobs, for climate change and for marine ecosystems – from well managed UK seas. The investment would easily pay for itself within a decade in GDP growth and jobs. This government has promised to level up the UK and with the right support now, our beloved coastal communities could look forward to a better and fairer future.” 

Some highlights from the report: 

A Government investment of £400 million is needed to rejuvenate the UK fishing industry, including: 

  • Supporting fishers financially to catch less in the short term where needed to recover stocks. Such compensation for environmental benefits is commonplace in farming. Reduced demand caused by Covid-19 and Brexit offers a clear opportunity to do this. 
  • £30 million per year to ensure all fisheries have sufficient scientific data to be managed effectively. 
  • Continuing previous EU funding streams with £81 million to invest in sustainability certification and helping fishers switch to more sustainable gear and practices, and £60 million for coastal heritage and tourism facilities. 

In addition, the Government Buying Standards for food purchased for schools, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons and Whitehall canteens should be strengthened to ensure public money is supporting sustainable British fish producers. 

The proposals in the report would boost jobs and the economy by: 

  • Allowing depleted fish populations to recover, to yield 30% higher landings and create 10,000 new jobs. 
  • Sharing some of the UK’s quota allocation more fairly, with more for the small-scale fleet which employs more people per fish. This would create at least an estimated 3,500 jobs. 
  • Rejuvenating recreational fishing and new wildlife-watching could add at least another 700 jobs in tourism. 

Demand has been growing across the world for sustainable fish, especially in public sector institutions. Many restaurant chains and caterers only serve fish that is either certified sustainable or rated 1-3 by the Marine Conservation Society. Unfortunately, most of the species caught around the coast of the UK at the moment do not meet this sustainability criteria so British fishers are missing out on significant market opportunities. Some cod, langoustines (scampi), scallops, herring, bream, cuttlefish, halibut, ray, skate and whiting are considered Fish to Avoid by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).   

For consumers, recovered fisheries could mean more of our favourites like cod and seabass, caught in the UK, on shelves and on menus. At the moment these species are mainly imported to meet our demand as UK stocks are depleted. A recovery of marine wildlife could see whales, dolphins and seabirds return to our shores and could be key to unlocking new opportunities in UK tourism. Where fishing harbours, recreational fishing and wildlife tourism have been valued as important assets, they have already seen a boost in visitors and tourism spend. 

The Government promised that a Brexit deal would allow UK fisheries to prosper. In fact, the deal has made it more difficult to export fish, and the moderate increase in quota is mainly for species like horse mackerel that are very unlikely to benefit the small-scale fleet. The government has promised to invest in a Green Recovery from Covid-19 and investing in fisheries offers the perfect opportunity to do so. 

Source: Press Release 

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Marine conservation campaigners call for government investment in UK fishing

by editor time to read: 8 min