Fisheries Bill, discards & bycatch – the threat of Brexit

A few weeks ago the Government launched their White Paper on sustainable fisheries after Brexit. These two articles are among the growing wave of responses to the White Paper.

Environmental campaigners join forces to tell Michael Gove not to fail on fisheries post-Brexit

Experts from conservation NGOs believe Government’s plan for a fisheries is a far cry from ‘world leading’ on sustainability

A coalition of the UK’s most influential environmental campaigners has joined forces in asking the public to back their call to Environment Secretary, Michael Gove. They are demanding that he ensures that post-Brexit management of our fisheries isn’t compromised by a lack of sustainability objectives in plans for fisheries management. The coalition is clear that management must deliver for our seas and all of their amazing wildlife, as well as for fish stocks.

The Marine Conservation Society, ClientEarth, Greenpeace, New Economics Foundation, RSPB, Sustain and WWF say the public can help to ensure that our exit from the European Union will not leave our fisheries and fish stocks floundering by taking part in the Government’s public consultation which is open now and runs until September 12th.

The #maynotcontainfish campaign ( enables members of the public to send an email to Michael Gove outlining the top priorities for the new Fisheries Bill. It demands that the management of UK fisheries post-Brexit is not compromised by a lack of ambition on sustainability.

Posters and digital billboards across the UK will feature iconic seascapes with a stark warning: “CAUTION, MAY NOT CONTAIN FISH”.

The Government is asking for feedback on its White Paper, outlining post-Brexit plans for fisheries management and setting the scene for the new Fisheries Bill. The coalition’s experts say the document is far too light on sustainability detail which could result in the Bill being developed more as a stop-gap than a foundation for ‘world leading’ future fisheries management.

The organisations say that sustainability for fish stocks and the wider marine environment must become key to deciding how, and how many, fish are caught. By putting high level objectives and principles of sustainability at its heart, the Bill would safeguard the marine environment, the fishing industry and the coastal communities that rely on a healthy ocean.

The group says that Mr Gove must understand that ‘fisheries’ are not just about fish stocks but the wider marine ecosystem, and everything and everyone relying on its health. The group believes that far too many fish stocks have been depleted in our waters, far too many habitats have been damaged and far too much of our amazing marine wildlife, like porpoise, dolphin, seabirds and sharks, are killed in commercial fisheries.

The environmental NGOs say fisheries should be managed for public benefit, with respect for wildlife, which is why sustainability must be at the heart of their future management. The email highlights the six areas the group says the new Fisheries Bill must include to achieve world leading fisheries management:

  1. Holistic: Healthy fish stocks are essential for marine life to thrive. They should be managed as a public resource and we should take into account the impact of human activities on this environment.
  2. Sustainable: Fish stocks are struggling. We need to manage them carefully, allow them to recover and, wherever possible, eliminate the negative impacts of fishing on the marine environment.
  3. Science-led: When making decisions about how much we can fish and when, the government should always use the best available science.
  4. Accountable: Fisheries should be fully transparent and everything that is caught should be recorded. This allows fisheries to be effectively managed, which means infringements can be properly enforced and fisheries are held to account.
  5. Fair: Fishing opportunities need to be allocated on the basis of transparent environmental, social and economic criteria, in a way that encourages the most sustainable fishing.
  6. Equivalent: The same high environmental standards should apply to all vessels fishing in UK waters (foreign or domestic).

Protection for dolphins and seabirds ‘weaker under Brexit plans’

Michael Gove’s plan does not oblige fishing industry to eliminate bycatch, where boats accidentally net sea species

Guardian James Tapper ‘Protection for dolphins and seabirds will be weaker under government plans for Brexit than if Britain stayed in the EU, according to a new analysis by environmental groups.

Under the EU’s Seabird Plan of Action, the fishing industry is obliged to eliminate “bycatch”, where boats accidentally catch seabirds, dolphins and other species. Under laws set out in environment secretary Michael Gove’s white paper on fisheries, they would need only to implement “practical and effective risk-based mitigation”.

An analysis by Greener UK, which represents 13 major organisations including the RSPB and WWF, welcomed ministers’ commitments to sustainable fishing and a pledge to consider fish stocks as a public asset. But it said the details in the white paper fell short of the government’s ambitions.

More than 300,000 whales, dolphins, porpoises and other cetaceans and 300,000 birds die worldwide every year by getting trapped in fishing nets. UK fishing fleets are among the best at avoiding bycatch, which may put them at a competitive disadvantage against those from other member states which do not take the rules as seriously.

“We are still not doing enough to monitor, understand and mitigate bycatch adequately, and thousands of marine mammals die in UK waters each year,” said Sarah Dolman, policy manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation. “Most other member states do not even implement the existing requirements so, as well as improving our own bycatch measures, we have the opportunity to ensure compliance of other nations who fish in UK waters in future. This would also offer UK fishermen a level playing field.”  Click here to read more

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