The UK Governments’ reasonable worst-case planning assumptions under a no deal Brexit were published in the ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ papers last week. On the question of fisheries, they estimate that up to 282 EU and EEA nations fishing vessels could enter illegally, or already be fishing in UK waters on day one. Up to 129 vessels in English waters, 100 vessels in Scottish waters, 40 vessels in Welsh waters and 13 vessels in Northern Irish waters. This is likely to cause anger and frustration in the UK catch sector, which could lead to both clashes between fishing vessels and an increase in non-compliance in the domestic fleet. With competing demands, enforcement and response capabilities are also likely to be at risk especially if there are violent disputes or blockading of ports.
Meanwhile an analysis of media coverage of Brexit and fisheries reveals that much of the coverage was based on comments from the representatives of the larger vessels in Scotland with a heavy focus on only one perspective. The small-scale fleet received only 2% of the media coverage despite making up 79% of the UK fishing fleet. No surprise then that the dominant narrative has been quota gains, crowding out coverage of other Brexit impacts such as trade issues of tariff and non-tariff barriers and the significant risk of an increase in overfishing post-Brexit.