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UK seafood industry could benefit from Brexit, but choppy waters lie ahead

Posted on 23 March 2017

The UK seafood industry could benefit from Brexit, although difficult negotiations with the EU lie ahead, say environmental and fishing industry experts.

Fish (credit: Victoria Reay, Flickr)

Maintaining access to export markets and imported raw materials, while ensuring sustainability, should be prioritised.

UK consumers could be urged to eat more ‘locally caught fish’ in order to decrease the reliance of the UK seafood industry on imported products.

Currently, around 70 per cent of fish eaten in the UK is imported from the EU and other countries such as Iceland and Canada.

Experts urge the fishing industry to see Brexit as an opportunity to add value and resilience to UK products in the face of an uncertain financial future.

Caution needed

However, scientists and stakeholders also call for caution in replacing current EU fishing regulations, as maintaining sustainable and traceable seafood products is vital for ensuring the healthy marine ecosystems which fisheries ultimately depend upon. Changes in the distribution of fish due to climate change add the need for more flexibility in future fisheries policies.

Hosted by the University of York’s Environment Department, over 70 experts and stakeholders from across the UK came together to discuss the future opportunities and challenges Brexit presents for UK/EU Environment, Fisheries and Agricultural Land Management sectors and policy.

The information gathered will be used to develop briefs to directly inform policy-makers about future governance options and their implications.

Spotlight on fisheries

Dr Bryce Stewart, Lecturer in York’s Environment Department, said: "Fisheries enjoyed an unusually high profile in the run up to last June’s referendum on UK membership of the EU. Now that the decision to leave the EU has been made, it is vital to keep fisheries in the spotlight, not only to ensure the best possible future for the UK fishing and seafood industry, but also to safeguard the wider marine environment.

“Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment need to stay high up on the Government agenda as the Brexit negotiations proceed, as they are all critically important issues to address with regards to ensuring the sustainability of these sectors and the future prosperity of the UK. It is also vital that both researchers and industry leaders continue to collaborate and share information to ensure a steady post-Brexit transition.”

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