Flawed Fisheries Report Brings Serious Questions Over Economists Analyses

Fishing for Leave draw serious concern over the findings of a report by Dutch Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands.

Reported in the Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/24/hard-brexit-would-mean-more-and-cheaper-british-fish-but-theres-a-catch

This also extends to our similar concern on why economic models by shore ‘experts’ who’ve never had first-hand experience of the business of fishing, and therefore make dubious assumptions, are hugely flawed!

It’s reports such as these, which can only be described as man plums, that are being used by remain minded journalists, officials and politicians to justify backsliding on Brexit!


The new analysis conducted by researchers at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands – which is claimed to be rated the world’s top university for agricultural research – found that 10-15% more fish would be landed by UK vessels in the hard Brexit scenario from 2020-2025, worth £250m over the period.

Repatriating resources can occur when the UK becomes an independent coastal state and can claim a portion of internationally agreed resource shares (TACs) based on the predominance of fish in a nations/British waters.

The report suggests the UK could only increases its catch by 15% yet analysis of EU data on catches in UK waters by Fishing for Leave, North Atlantic Fisheries College AND Defra show the UK could lay claim to over DOUBLE the resources with repatriating our waters.

Currently the EU catches 675,000 tons in UK waters – 60% of the fish caught in the UK sector – whilst the UK only catches 88,000 tons or 16% of the fish taken in EU waters.

Based on this the UK stands to regain approximately 700,000 tons of internationally greed resource shares (TACs) based on the level of stocks in our waters – currently the UK contributes 50% of the waters to the EU pot but only gets 25% of the TACs agreed internationally – this should be around 60%

This leads to a potential 243% increase of landings by repatriating our resources not 15%!

The catch value gained by repatriating and controlling UK waters is £800-900m. When an approximate processed net-to-plate factor of x4 is included this becomes annually £3-4bn! Far in excess of the University’s figures, even if the UK only managed to repatriate half what it should!


The most strikingly flaw which seriously brings into question the accuracy and validity of this report is the statement; “Spain can moderately benefit from reduced competition of UK boats in its marine waters” …. even though the EUs OWN DATA show that ZERO UK boats fish off Spain!

The EU commissions STECF data shows no British registered effort in Spanish waters, whether by indigenously owned or EU owned but UK registered flagships.

https://stecf.jrc.ec.europa.eu/dd/effort/graphs-quarter  (select – map:landings by rectangle ~ in country select Sco/Eng/Nir/IoM/Gbj/Gbg)


The report surmises that by banning EU vessels from UK waters this would correctly lead to many more fish being landed by British boats and surmises a drop in fish prices.

As the UK regains a rightful share of her resources the additional supply may result in the short term dip of prices domestically – no ill for the consumer – until British processors rebuild after being forced into  decline alongside the catching sector due to the CFP.

Additionally, the report takes no account of the necessity of EU markets on stocks from UK waters, whether caught by EU vessels directly or by British vessels and therefore the demand that EU buyers could bring to UK markets.

The big point is whether prices drop temporarily or more long term this is more than offset by the additional volume of fish regained and this is why it is CRUCIAL the government distribute  repatriated resources fairly in new UK policy to benefit everyone not just a few.

The report also states that as two-thirds of the fish UK consumers eat is imported from overseas the costs of those would rise, due to the trade barriers resulting from a hard Brexit.

The billions of pounds from repatriating our resources out-weighs tariffs or a short-term price dip till domestic processing capacity rebuilds, it also takes no account of the necessity of EU markets on stocks from UK waters whether caught by EU vessels directly or by British vessels.

The report doesn’t know and therefore presumes that there is no trade deals with the rest of the world or that no new markets are pursued, if indeed the EU slammed the door on UK fish despite its populations dependency on UK fish.

A large proportion of UK imports are from Norway and Iceland. Although they are in the EEA, fisheries management and marketing is not included in this and therefore there it would not be impossible for the UK to ensure little change to current imports and price structure of this import stream.

Looking from a national balance of payments perspective the additional throughput of repatriating British resources earns more than the nation would potentially have to spend on imports.

The report also doesn’t account for strength of consumer demand in the EU – consumers may be willing to pay a bit more to continue sourcing UK fish or for consumer tastes in the UK.

UK caught fish in abundance for cheaper may encourage Britons to change onto the fantastic domestic produce to end the – export what we catch/import what we eat.

The EU stands to suffer far more than the UK.


The WUR analysis claims to have employed a widely used economic model and also tested to see how much changing the necessary assumptions affected their conclusions. The overall “lose-lose” outcome of a hard Brexit in fisheries remained in all circumstances, with only the scale of losses being different.

On first reading of the report it is very disingenuous and has some serious holes in its data and works on some big presumptions and by its own admission assumptions.

What this report does is brings into sharp question the validity of economists modelling especially when manipulating figures without real experience of an industry and engagement with businesses and their consumers as to how they will react to change nor knowing exact future policy the UK pursues with the rest of the world.

If the UK regains what should be rightfully her resources, implements new UK policy to address both EU and domestic failings of management and allocations etc, rather than replicating a failed system in London instead of Brussels which is no panacea, then the future can be very bright for British fishing.

For the EU it would be grim but they will have to obey international law and re-adjust their industry to account for the loss of British waters from the EU pot which accounts for 50/60% of the resources and waters they depend on.