Governing UK Fisheries after Brexit: Lessons from Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands

Craig McAngus, Christopher Huggins, Arno Van Der Zwet, John Connolly

    Research output: Book/ReportOther report


    ● Leaving the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) means that the UK will need to put in place governance processes and institutional structures to replace those at the EU level.
    ● This presents opportunities for the UK as it will have far more scope to shape fisheries policy to suit its own needs given that it will become an independent coastal state.
    ● However, this will need to be done in a way that:
    ○ Balances the interests of a range of industry and non-industry
    ○ Respects the competencies of the devolved administrations
    ○ Respects the UK’s obligations as a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
    ● Despite Brexit being a unique and extremely complicated process that has no precedent, the UK can draw upon the experiences of nearby independent coastal states (Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands) when it comes to fisheries policy.
    Case Studies
    Iceland● Iceland governs its fisheries using a three-pillared institutional structure (government ministry, marine science institute, fisheries directorate) which ensures that scientific advice is adhered to as far as is possible and is free from political interference.
    ● Iceland uses an Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) system which has a transparent, real-time quota monitoring system, run by the directorate, that provides up-to-date information on landings which is self-policing and can be closely monitored by scientists.
    ● There is a positive relationship between government and industry, with industry voices included in decision-making processes and external relations with other coastal states.
    ● Although the ITQ system has helped improve the state of Icelandic fish stocks, it has had a discernible negative social impact in smaller and more remote fishing communities.
    Norway● Norway’s fisheries governance structures are similar to Iceland’s, with a ministry taking political responsibility, an Institute for Marine Research providing scientific advice and a Directorate of Fisheries undertaking executive functions and day-to-day administration.
    ● It has developed a complex fisheries management system, encompassing strict ownership and licensing rules, Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas, and regulatory measures such as a discard ban and the closure of fishing grounds.
    ● The key principles guiding Norwegian fisheries management are enshrined in legislation and policy-making is characterised by transparency, cooperation and consensus between the government, industry, scientific community and other stakeholders.
    ● Against the benchmarks of sustainability and economic profitability, Norway’s approach to fisheries management has been a success. This took place at a time when the Norwegian economy was in strong position, and so mitigated against the impact on local fishing communities.
    Faroe Islands● Despite not being a sovereign state, the Faroe Islands is an independent coastal state and thus has full autonomy over their fisheries policy.
    ● The effort-based system for demersal fisheries, which was popular with the fishing industry, was replaced by a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) system in December 2017 because of concerns over sustainability.
    ● The effort-based system led to politicisation of fishing policy and to marginalisation of scientific advice in the process. In contrast, the reformed policy aims to give primacy to scientific advice and to make quota-setting a more technical issue.
    ● The reformed policy also aims to create a more sustainable and inclusive fishing industry in the Faroe Islands with strict foreign ownership rules and development policies for economically deprived areas.
    Overview of policy recommendations● Some key principles regarding the management of fisheries ought to be enshrined in law which include:○ Incorporating fisheries management into a wider environmental strategy.○ Ensuring the take up of quotas in order to minimise speculative buying or holding.○ Ensuring that there is a minimum level of adherence to these principles across the devolved and UK jurisdictions.○ The creation of a fisheries common framework between the UK and devolved governments which ensures these principles endure.
    ● An effective and enduring institutional structure should be put in place which contains the government ministry/department, scientific institute and a directorate which conducts and oversees the day-to-day management of UK fisheries. Any such structure would need to appreciate the contours of devolution in the UK in terms of where these structures would be best located.
    ● The independence of scientific advice should be enshrined in law to ensure that future sustainability of fish stocks is a key consideration in the decision-making process.
    ● Decision-making on day-to-day management, future reforms and negotiations with other coastal states should include industry and other relevant stakeholders in both a consultative and advisory role in order to ensure transparency and the fostering of a culture of trust, cooperation and consensus.
    ● Fisheries policy in a post-Brexit UK should ensure that any economic benefits accruing from leaving the CFP should also benefit fishing dependent communities. A detailed assessment of how these communities would be affected by Brexit and proposed changes to fisheries management ahead of the UK becoming an independent coastal state ought to be undertaken to initiate effective policy responses.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationPaisley
    PublisherUniversity of the West of Scotland
    Number of pages19
    Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2018


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