This report explores the potential implications of the planned exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy for fisheries policy in Wales.
Analysis of fleet economic performance under various Brexit scenarios reveals that, while the Welsh fishing fleet as a whole could gain, there are large divisions in the industry, with most vessels, fishers, and ports likely to be ‘net losers’ from Brexit. Only a smaller number of vessels face large potential gains, including some ‘flagships’ that land much of their catch in Spain.
Parts of the UK fishing industry have been excited by the prospect of claiming exclusive rights to fish in UK waters and larger shares of fishing quota as a result of Brexit. However, the Welsh fleet comprises mainly small-scale vessels that would not benefit from exclusive access to an extended fishing area. They also catch primarily shellfish species that are not managed through quota limits. Most of the seafood produced by the Welsh fleet is exported to EU countries or through EU trade agreements, therefore potential tariff and non-tariff trade barriers could significantly impact market access and competitiveness.
The authors highlight that the structure of the Welsh fleet is unique and there is a real risk of it being ‘left behind’ in UK-EU negotiations by the demands of larger fishing interests. Although there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the outcomes of Brexit, looking forward they estimate that fishing opportunities relating to Welsh waters post-Brexit will be much larger than Wales’ current share. However, as any increases would accrue to existing UK quota holders, the Welsh fleet requires a new arrangement of quota sharing within the UK to get its fair share. To take advantage of new fishing opportunities, the authors suggest both the UK Government and Welsh Government will need to make targeted changes to the management of fishing opportunities, so that benefits are felt in Welsh ports, coastal communities and wider society from what is, ultimately, a public resource.