The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has created a "window of opportunity" for the country to transition into more sustainable fishing, which could increase its catch by almost 30%, according to new research by a leading conservation group.
Oceana says changes in the way EU and UK fisheries are managed following Brexit give the UK the chance to transition to a new mode of fishing management "that would benefit the fishing industry, business, the economy and society."
In a new report, the group analysed 75 of the most important species for the UK in EU waters, including haddock, cod and herring, concluding that if its fisheries were managed sustainably over the next decade there would be major benefits.
In addition to a 27% increase in fish catches for the UK fishing fleet, the report says sustainable fishing could create 5,100 full-time jobs and a £319 million (around 366 million euros) boost to the UK's GDP.
“The future of UK fisheries is bright if the UK rebuilds fish stocks to their full potential and transitions to sustainable fishing,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana Europe.
Methods of rebuilding fish stocks to their “maximum sustainable yield” include following scientific advice on fishing limits, protecting fish breeding areas and tackling illegal fishing.
Overfishing in waters used by UK vessels has posed a major problem to the industry, with stocks such as cod in the west of Scotland suffering historic lows that have put jobs and livelihoods at risk, Oceana says.
A report this month by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) found that the UK and Ireland were leading EU countries in ignoring scientific advice on fishing limits in the Atlantic.
In its Atlantic fishing quota for 2018, the UK was found to be 79,893 tonnes above scientific advice.
“The fisheries debate is in full swing following Brexit. Tough Brexit negotiations on fisheries are just around the corner. The UK should not miss this opportunity to secure a more sustainable fishing future,” Gustavsson said.