UK seafood industry secures additional GBP 282 million in fishing opportunities

A U.K. fishing boat on the water.

The U.K. fishing industry has secured an additional 140,000 metric tons (MT) of fishing opportunities worth GBP 282 million (USD 341.8 million, EUR 326.4 million) for 2023 through a fisheries accord reached with the European Union. 

The U.K. and E.U. reached an agreement on catch levels for 69 fish stocks, including some of the most commercially-valuable stocks to the U.K. fishing industry, such as North Sea nephrops, worth GBP 54 million (USD 65.5 million, EUR 62.5 million); anglerfish, worth GBP 31 million (USD 37.6 million, EUR 35.9 million); and western hake, worth GBP 25 million (USD 30.3 million, EUR 28.9 million).

This was the third time the U.K. and E.U. have negotiated catch levels since Brexit. U.K. Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer said the agreement with the E.U. secured valuable fishing opportunities for the country's fishing industry, while cementing a joint commitment to manage fisheries sustainably.  

“These decisions are based on the latest scientific advice to help protect key fish stocks with the long-term health of the marine environment at the forefront of our minds,” Spencer said. “We are backing the fishing industry across the country to succeed, with a landmark GBP 100 million (USD 121.2 million, EUR 115.8 million) investment in infrastructure, skills, and better scientific data so that our fishing industry thrives for generations to come.”

The total value of fishing opportunities secured for the U.K. fleet in 2023 in the three main negotiation forums now equates to GBP 750 million (USD 909.1 million, EUR 868.2 million), a GBP 34 million (USD 41.2 million, EUR 39.4 million) increase from 2022. 

This latest deal follows the agreement between the United Kingdom, the E.U., and Norway on six North Sea fish stocks including cod, haddock, and herring worth GBP 202 million (USD 244.9 million, EUR 233.8 million) to the U.K. fishing industry, and a further GBP 11 million (USD 13.3 million, EUR 12.7 million) in stocks in other U.K. waters.  

The United Kingdom also secured catch limits worth a further GBP 256 million (USD 310.3 million, EUR 296.3 million), with the Northeast Atlantic coastal states, and an agreement with Norway last month will see the U.K. fishing industry benefit from fishing opportunities worth GBP 5 million (USD 6.1 million, EUR 5.8 million) in 2023. 

U.K. Government Minister for Scotland John Lamont said these agreements showed the government was determined to maximize the fishing opportunities gained from being an independent coastal state, and that throughout the negotiations, the government worked to ensure fishing communities across the country will benefit from the agreement. 

"I welcome the close collaboration between the U.K. and Scottish government negotiating teams in securing deals which will see the Scottish industry benefit from improved catch levels for North Sea stocks including cod, hake, whiting and nephrops,” Lamont said. "It's great news that the total U.K. fishing opportunities is GBP 750 million – GBP 34 million more than in 2022. This, along with the U.K. government's GBP 100 million [USD 121 million, EUR 114 million] UK Seafood Fund, will help level up coastal communities, support job creation across Britain while delivering world-class sustainable fisheries and aquaculture management.”

Wherever possible, catch levels have been set in line with, or lower than, the level advised by scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), and there is an estimated 13 percent increase in catch levels that align with ICES advice compared to 2021, Lamont said.

The United Kingdom recently started negotiations with the Faroe Islands on exchanges of fishing opportunities for 2023.

Environmental groups criticized the new catch-sharing agreements, claiming the United Kingdom and the E.U. set fishing limits for a significant number of fish stocks at levels that are too high. Environmental non-governmental organization Oceana said the new agreements would result in the continued overexploitation of some stocks, jeopardiziing their recovery.

“While both parties adhered to the science for some stocks, we deeply regret their inability to take the right decision for stocks in the poorest conservation state,” Oceana Senior Director of Advocacy for Europe Vera Coelho said. “Not only did decision-makers disregard the zero catch scientific advice for the most heavily depleted stocks, such as west of Scotland cod, Irish Sea whiting, and Celtic Sea herring, they also continue to allow excessive incidental catches of these stocks by other fisheries – which will render their recovery to sustainable levels nearly impossible.”

Oceana U.K. Executive Director Hugo Tagholm said overfishing is decimating fish populations in U.K. and E.U. waters.

“Cod numbers in the Celtic Sea, Irish Sea, and off the west of Scotland have plummeted over the years, and are at risk of collapse if urgent action isn't taken,” Tagholm said.

Tagholm said the U.K. and E.U. continue to break their own fisheries laws, setting quotas above scientific advice and risking the long-term viability of the fishing industry, as well as driving the marine biodiversity crisis.

“Urgent action must be taken to allow fish stocks to recover, restore our marine ecosystems, and ensure food security for future generations," he said.

Photo courtesy of Peter Moulton/Shutterstock 


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