Michael Gove welcomes Best Practice in World Fisheries conference report

January 16, 2018 by Charles Clover


Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, has welcomed the conclusions of a conference designed to provide lessons for Brexit that looked at how key non-EU countries manage their fisheries.

The conference looked at four very different jurisdictions: the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Norway. In all fisheries management has improved significantly and fish stocks have increased in recent years.

Uniquely, the event at Fishmongers Hall in London on November 21 of last year was organised by a steering group drawn from both the fishing industry and the environmental movement.

The 46-page conference proceedings are published today and some of the speakers’ conclusions are set out below.

Mr Gove welcomed the conclusions of the conference, saying : “Leaving the European Union gives us an historic opportunity to develop a world-class fishing industry while proving ourselves environmental leaders. I have always been clear any new domestic fishing policy needs to be guided by science, and I welcome this report and the insight it gives us into practices around the world.”

Please see the full report from the conference here.


Here are some of the speakers’ insights:

The UK must support the recovery of depleted fish stocks after Brexit

“The cause of the [1992 North Eastern USA cod fishery] crash was decades of overfishing, failure for years to follow scientific advice, adhere to total allowable catches and quotas, and ineffective effort controls. The outcome of these factors was a boom-and-bust cycle that was terrible for the industry and local communities and ultimately caused the fishery’s collapse. This example was one of many that illustrated the need for explicit language in the law to end overfishing and rebuild stocks” (Margaret Spring, former senior counsel to US Senate 1999-2007).


The UK must continue to have international cooperation in fisheries policy, particularly with the EU and Norway, otherwise there will be a race to over-fish shared stocks which cross international boundaries.

“90% of the value of Norwegian fishing comes from stocks shared with other countries…” “The sharing of resources, nationally and internationally, is an important part of management.”  (Peter Gullestad, former Director of Norwegian Fisheries).


Negotiations over shared stocks should not be left to the end in broader trade negotiations, as in Norway’s experience this will mean that fishermen will lose out to larger economic interests.

“We in Norway know what it is like when fish is the last thing on the negotiating table. Good if you are strong, not if you are not that strong” (Torben Foss, former Director General, Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries)


Fisheries management must be based on robust science and management plans that deliver long term sustainability of marine resources

“To avoid boom and bust fisheries, management must prioritise science over economic factors in setting catch limits.” (Margaret Spring.)

“Today ecological sustainability is the top priority, that is seen as a prerequisite for achieving anything else. Achieving biodiversity has also become more important.” (Peter Gullestad, former Director of Norwegian Fisheries)


Restricting the number of days fishermen can go to sea (called ‘effort controls’) is a blunt instrument as a means of conservation, according to US experts, who say there are more refined systems available to rebuild fish stocks in UK waters.

More effective options used in the USA include: enforceable catch limits defined by science rather than politics, a legal requirement to end overfishing and rebuild stocks,  extensive area closures to give stocks a rest, accidental bycatch limits, having scientist observers and electronic monitoring on vessels.

“[On the west coast USA] We went from a 2005 trawling ban to a dramatic turnaround in 2014, with new opportunities to catch and market sustainable seafood.” (Margaret Spring, former senior counsel to US Senate 1999-2007).)


The fishing industry should be involved in setting the rules 

“We have done legislative change well in Australia when it has been a joint activity, poorly when government or industry or one party has gone off on their own and attempted to get that legislative change through in a quick manner.  Now, that is a problem for where you are in the UK as you have a clock ticking away.” (Dr. George Kailis, University of Notre Dame, Australia)

Fisheries law should be better integrated with environmental law 

“In the last century it was saving cod and herring that was the priority. But now fisheries management has a duty also to look after non-commercial species of fish, birds and mammals as well as vulnerable bottom habitats, which maybe affected by fisheries.”  (Peter Gullestad, former Director of Norwegian Fisheries)


None of the world’s leading fisheries nations have devolved their offshore fisheries but Australia has totally devolved its inshore ones

“I recommend a single responsible authority within a devolved system” (Dr. George Kailis University of Notre Dame, Australia)


Anglers should be take more responsibility for data-gathering and stock management and will need to accept more regulations.

“The recreational fishing sector is 25 years behind the commercial sector in their approach to data gathering and fisheries management” (Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, Director, Center for Science and Democracy, USA)


Speakers and Moderators:

Best Practice in World Fisheries conference

Fishmongers’ Hall, London

November 21, 2017


Conference Chairman: Sir John Beddington

Australia: Dr George Kailis, Guy Leyland, Dr Bryce Beukers-Stewart

New Zealand: Dr Geoff Tingley, George Clement, Karla Hill

Norway: Peter Gullestad, Torben Foss, Jan Berger Jorgensen

United States: Margaret Spring, Dr Andrew Rosenberg, Stefanie Moreland


Moderators: Prof. Ian Boyd, Dr Martin Attrill, Dr Steve Simpson, Melanie Siggs

Facilitator: Daniel Owen


Steering Committee:

Thomas Appleby (Blue Marine Foundation)

Charles Clover (Blue Marine Foundation)

Barrie Deas (National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations)

Adrian Gahan (Blue Marine Foundation)

John Goodlad (Fishmongers’ Hall)

Michael Park (Scottish White Fish Producers Association)

Jim Pettipher (Coastal Producers’ Organisation)

Erin Priddle (Environmental Defense Fund)

Andrew Wallace (Fishmongers’ Hall)


Please find speakers’ video presentations below:

Geoff Tingley, Independent New Zealand fisheries expert

Peter Gullestad, Directorate of Norwegian Fisheries

Margaret SpringFormer National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

George KailisUniversity of Notre Dame Australia 


Please see a link here to the main presentations.


Please see the full report from the conference here.

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