British Fishermen Say Quit Quotas

A Survey by Cardiff University has been published which researched the overwhelming support for Brexit by fishermen and detailed a strong desire by the grassroots of the industry for a different approach from the heavily maligned CFP.

The survey resulted in responses from fishermen throughout the UK survey covering approximately 10% of skippers being the equivalent of a poll covering 3million voters.

With a relatively even distribution of responses covering all sizes and sectors of the industry the authors of the report are delighted that it is so representative of the grassroots views of the UK industry and what they want from Brexit.


Map Showing Geographical Spread of Responses

The report irrefutably quantifies that the industry does not want the disastrous CFP continued or adopted into UK law with the Great “Repeal” Bill which the government proposes to do.

Despite the degradation the industry and coastal communities have suffered there is still a resilience to see a next generation of family go to the fishing.

Results showed a clear sense of stewardship, responsibility and a willingness to see British fisheries rebuilt and for the government and science to stop ignoring fishermens expertise.

The figures show an overwhelming majority of the grassroots industry see continuation of the disaster of quotas and the mass discarding of fish they cause as flogging a dead horse.

The industry recognise that Discard Ban address the symptom (discards) not the cause (quotas) with the majority wanting management through Days-at-Sea or Catch compositions instead.

This is in stark contrast to the position of those who purport to represent the industry who want to retain the system of quotas the grassroots are opposed to..

The serious question needs to be asked, given these figures, of who are they representing, the majority of the industry or a clique of vested “slipper skipper” quota interests?

The findings of this survey graphically illustrate the majority of industry want a fresh start, it will be Interesting if the government will betray Brexit and the opportunity of rejuvenating a £6.3bn industry by retaining the status quo to appease a minority of vested interests and for political convenience.

Findings of Cardiff University Report

The authors at Cardiff University noted that “The study highlighted an industry in steep decline with significant divide both between the different stakeholders and significant internal divide between fishing sectors. It highlighted fishermens future management recommendations for the industry, these included more focus placed on social aspects to encourage a younger generation of fishermen and an improved relationship between fishermen, scientists and the government alongside an improvement in relations between the different sectors of the industry”

The report that aimed to start to fill the gap of further research into the largely ignored social aspects of fisheries management emphasising that;

“management is primarily from the perspective of those concerned with marine conservation but also by economists. This resulted in these two fields having the greatest influence on policy making with the social aspect largely ignored and policies had little regard for the communities that the fisheries were supporting. The lack of social objectives has been keenly felt in the UK fishing industry”

The authors highlight that the reports purpose is to quantify the views of fishermen and their expertise of the industry that is ignored or given lack of consideration in the development of policy and how this ostracization caused by policy being un-reflective of the views and social requirements of the industry is one of the main drives in why the majority of fishermen overwhelmingly backed Brexit and a different approach to current the management regime.

The report said that the “Fishing for Leave campaign, and Brexit as a whole, offered fishermen from around the UK a means for their voice to be heard on a national level.Several papers criticize the scarcity of social objectives in the CFP, however these studies display a significant lack of first-hand evidence. The idiosyncrasies that are an integral part of the UK’s fishing communities are often overlooked, an atypical study that involved fishermen being interviewed provided a valuable insight into the fishing industry on a local level. To fully understand a social group you should be able to see their see their point of view, this approach to the fishing industry has been missing. Therefore, this study seeks to understand issues from a fisherman’s perspective and put the vocal nature of the fishing industry during the referendum into context. Looking for the reasoning behind their grievances and with Brexit now a reality, how they wish to see change in the management of their industry”.

The authors at Cardiff University stated that their first aim was to investigate the issues UK fisherman have with the current system of fisheries management.

To achieve this, their objectives were:

  • Understand the demographics of the UK fishermen.
  • Investigate their opinions on the present socio-economic status of the fishing industry.
  • Identify the areas of the Common Fisheries Policy that the fishermen were most focused on.
  • Investigate the relationships of fishermen with other stakeholders

The second aim was to investigate how UK fishermen want fisheries management to change

as a result of Brexit.

  • Identify how the fishermen want the UK’s relationship with the EU to change.
  • Identify the key areas of management the fishermen want to change.
  • Investigate the flexibility of the industry towards change.

The report highlighted the social importance of fishing detailing that

“As an island nation, the United Kingdom has an extensive history of fishing, coastal communities were formed around harbours and these seaside towns are an important part of British culture. Due to economic link prosperity of these communities is inextricably linked with the success of the fishing industry, however the attitude of the EU to this social aspect of fisheries has been ambivalence.

To halt this decline in the industry Article 17 was introduced, which aimed to increase the transparency of how quota is allocated and ensuring that it benefits the social side of the industry, thus creating an economic link between quota allocation and fishing communities”.

Responses from all Size and Sectors

The survey not only covered a wide geographical spread (as shown in the map above) but was also highly representative of all sectors of the UK industry with responses from the largest Pelagic vessels through to the smallest inshore.

The highest level of respondents came from Gill Netters, Inshore Creels, and Single Rig Fish Trawlers with 15 responses from the large pelagic vessels representing over half of that sector. When put into the 3 main sectors the views in the survey came from 59% Demersal 28% Shellfish and 13% Pelagic

Table 2 - Sectors

The Majority Want to See Heritage Continued Despite Difficulties.

When questioned whether they would encourage their family members to become involved in the industry 46% said they would, 25% said maybe and 28% said they would not.  This showed that despite the opinion that the industry had steeply declined, the majority of fishermen (71%) would not be adverse to their family following in their footsteps. Giving some illustration of the importance of the strong family, historic and cultural ties that keep young men going to sea despite the difficulties and hardships in the industry.

Table 3 - Sectors and Encourage Family

Table 7- UK Industry Decline


Allocations Between EU and UK Unfair

Nearly 96% of respondents felt that the allocation of resources between the EU and the UK were unfair and unrepresentative of stocks and catches. The figures produced by NAFC and Fishing for Leave quantified fishermens views when they detailed that 59% of fish caught in UK waters is by EU vessels and that this should give an overall TAC share of 61% to the UK rather than the current 25% under the CFP.

Table 4 - EU Allocations.


UK Allocations and Slipper Skippers Big Problem

More interestingly almost 84% of UK fishermen surveyed feel that the current allocation of resources within the UK are unfairly spread across the fleet. Showing that a vast majority of the UK fleet across sizes, sectors and regions are strongly unsatisfied with the current level of resource allocations.

Table 5 - UK allocations are unfair


The additional comments submitted to the report showed that fishermen cited the consolidation of quota into a few hands and “slipper skipper” quota traders as a strong target of their dissatisfaction. With the word cloud detailing the most frequent word of concern being Quota.

Table 8 Word Cloud


Discard Ban Won’t Work Because of Quotas

On the subject of Discards the answers were open and generated 4 main answers cited as the cause of discards

These were 1) Lack of Quota 2) Quota Doesn’t Match Stocks 3) Mixed Fisheries 4) Incorrect Mesh Size.

75% of fishermen felt that the Discard Ban under the current Quota regime would not work with only 15% of respondents thinking it would.

Table7 -Discard Ban



CFP Must Not Be Replicated and EU fleet Excluded!

63% of fishermen did not want to see any part of the CFP replicated into British law with only 13% thinking any parts of it should be. This shows little support for the government to replicate the CFP as the propose to do in adopting the Acquis Communataire (all EU law) with the Great “Repeal” Bill.

Table 6 A - Replicate CFP


When asked if the UK should exclude EU vessels from the UK EEZ a majority of 62% thought the UK should with another 15% thinking that the UK maybe should do so with only 20% of the industry against excluding EU vessels.

Table 10 - Should EU be Excluded


85% of Industry Do Not Want Quotas Continued

 Days-at-Sea- The most startling find of the Survey was that across all sizes, sectors and regions 56% of fishermen want Days-at-Sea for future UK management, 29% Catch Compositions and only a small minority of 15% wish to retain the current quota system.

The report noted that this overwhelming response from the industry for an entirely different approach to managing UK fisheries post Brexit is in stark contrast to the official line of the SFF and NFFO who advocate retaining quotas.

Table 11 - Should UK exclude - Days at Sea


The vast majority of fishermen felt that relationships with the government were poor or very poor 91% with scientist fairing little better at 75%.  The additional comments highlighted strong feelings that the industries views are ignored and disregarded and a strong willingness that fishermen want to co-operate with scientists in a fairer post Brexit regime to produce accurate stock assessments and data.

This conjoined with wanting a clean break from the CFP and a move away from quota shows the government that is meant to work with and represent the industry is far away from the views of the fishermen.

Table 8 - Relationship with GOvt Table 12 - Scientist Relationship