News Sustainable Fish

Net Worth

Government investment in sustainable fishing could create over 14,000 jobs and generate £2 billion per year.

Credit: Ruth Westcott

Credit: Ruth Westcott

Download Net Worth: How investing in sustainable fishing could transform the UK’s coastal communities

At least fourteen thousand jobs could be created as part of rejuvenated coastal communities if the Government invests £400 million per year for ten years, instead of the meagre compensation offered to cover Brexit losses.

A report published today by Sustain shows how investing in managing fisheries more fairly and sustainably would allow the UK industry and coastal communities – some of the areas worst hit by coronavirus and Brexit-related disruptions – to grow significantly and sustainably in terms of jobs and income, deliver the ‘sea of opportunity’ promised by Brexit, and give significant returns on investment in a remarkably short space of time.

Boris Johnson has allocated some funds to compensate for losses caused by Brexit and Covid-19 including £23 million for exporting businesses. However, apart from an as yet unconfirmed £100 million, there are no plans to support the industry to flourish longer term. This report makes the case for a much larger investment of £400 million per year for a decade. It is calculated that this would allow fisheries to add more than £2 billion annually to GDP from increased catches and associated coastal economies, and would put an end to UK seafood being rejected by businesses over sustainability concerns. At present depleted fish stocks, poor data, and lack of independent verification of sustainability for UK seafood means the fishing industry is failing to meet its full potential.

Ruth Westcott, co-ordinator for sustainable fishing at Sustain said

"The opportunities that were promised through Brexit must now be delivered by Government investment instead. The compensation package offered to the industry is money down the drain if it isn’t part of a bigger investment plan. If funding is focussed on recovering marine ecosystems and fish stocks, and allocating fishing rights fairly, the industry could thrive. This report is clear, there are incredible gains to be had – for jobs, for climate change and for nature – from well managed UK seas, and the investment would easily pay for itself within a decade in GDP growth and jobs. This government has promised to level up the UK and with the right support now, our coastal communities could look forward to a better and fairer future."

Highlights from the report

A Government investment of £400 million is needed to rejuvenate the UK fishing industry, including:

  • Supporting fishers financially to catch less in the short term where needed to recover stocks. Such compensation for environmental benefits is commonplace in farming. Reduced demand caused by Covid-19 and Brexit offers the perfect opportunity to do this.
  • £30 million per year to ensure all fisheries have sufficient data to be managed effectively
  • Continuing previous EU funding streams with £81 million to invest in sustainability certification and helping fishers switch to more sustainable gear and practices, and £60 million for coastal heritage and tourism facilities.

In addition, the Government Buying Standards should be strengthened to ensure public money is supporting sustainable British fish producers.

The proposals in the report would boost jobs and the economy by:

  • Allowing depleted fish populations to recover, to yield 30% higher landings and create 10,000 new jobs
  • Sharing some of the UK’s quota allocation more fairly, with more for the small-scale fleet which employs more people per fish. This would create at least an estimated 3500 jobs.
  • Rejuvenating recreational fishing and new wildlife-watching could add at least another 700 jobs in tourism.

Demand has been growing across the world for sustainable fish, especially in public sector institutions. Many restaurant chains and caterers only serve fish which is either certified sustainable or rated 1-3 by the Marine Conservation Society. Unfortunately, most of the species caught around the coast of the UK at the moment do not meet this sustainability criteria so they are missing out on market opportunities. Some cod, langoustines (scampi), scallops, herring, bream, cuttlefish, halibut, ray, skate and whiting are considered Fish to Avoid by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). 

For consumers, recovered fisheries could mean more of our favourites like cod and seabass, caught in the UK, on shelves and on menus. At the moment these species are mainly imported to meet our demand as UK stocks are depleted. A recovery of marine wildlife could see whales, dolphins and seabirds return to our shores and could be key to unlocking new opportunities in UK tourism. Where fishing harbours, recreational fishing and wildlife tourism have been valued as important assets, they have already seen a boost in visitors and tourism spend.

The Government promised that a Brexit deal would allow UK fisheries to prosper. In fact, the deal has made it more difficult to export fish, and the moderate increase in quota is mainly for species like horse mackerel that are very unlikely to benefit the small-scale fleet. The government has promised to invest in a Green Recovery from Covid-19 and, given the disappointing Brexit deal, fisheries offers the perfect opportunity to do so.

Download Net Worth: How investing in sustainable fishing could transform the UK’s coastal communities

Published Tuesday 8 June 2021

Sustainable Fish: A campaign to protect precious marine environments and fishing livelihoods, and call for fish to be bought from sustainable sources. We want to show what can be done if people and organisations make a concerted effort to change their buying habits.

Latest related news

Support our campaign

Donate now to help us to protect marine environments and fishing livelihoods.


The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA

020 3559 6777

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

© Sustain 2024
Registered charity (no. 1018643)
Data privacy & cookies