Brexit will provide great opportunities, fishermen believe

Leaving the EU will provide “a sea of opportunity” for coastal communities, Scottish Fisherman’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong believes, following a “bombshell” landings report from the NAFC Marine Centre.

According to a study by the centre’s senior policy adviser Ian Napier, European Union fishing boats caught more than half of the fish landed from the UK’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in recent years, and seven times more than UK boats caught elsewhere in EU waters.

Dr Napier estimated that from 2012 to 2014 fishing boats from other EU countries caught 58 per cent of the fish and shellfish landed from the UK EEZ on average each year.

According to the findings that is some 650,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth more than £400 million, each year.

Meanwhile UK fishing boats landed 90,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth about £100 million, caught elsewhere in EU waters on average each year.

Bertie Armstrong
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong.

The UK EEZ is a sea area extending up to 200 nautical miles from the coast, where a country is entitled to control the exploitation of fish and shellfish, as well as other economic resources.

The study used publically available data from the European Commission and the UK’s marine management organisation (MMO).

Among other findings were:

• More than half of the megrim, plaice and saithe, three-quarters of the common (Dover) sole, hake, herring and skates and rays, 83 per cent of the horse mackerel and 94 per cent of the blue whiting landed from the UK EEZ by EU boats were caught by non-UK vessels;

• More than half (51 per cent) of  fish and shellfish landed from the Scottish part of the UK EEZ was caught by non-UK boats;

• Almost three-quarters (71 per cent) of fish and shellfish landed from the English, Welsh and Northern Irish part of the UK EEZ was caught by non-UK boats.

The Scottish Fisherman’s Association believes that Brexit will provide “a once-in-a liftetime opportunity to regain control of national waters”.

It argues that exit from the EU will enable the UK to assert control over its 200-mile EEZ, which means that foreign vessels could not then fish in the zone without express consent.

Mr Armstrong said: “This detailed analysis of these landing figures is a bombshell that reveals the truly shocking extent of how our rich fishing grounds have been given away in recent decades.

“Brexit provides a sea of opportunity to breathe new life into our coastal communities by ensuring increased catching opportunities and fit for purpose management within our own EEZ.

“The UK and Scottish governments must take heed of the startling figures contained within this report and work together as a team to ensure that the best possible deal is reached for our hardworking fishermen.

“It would be a monumental betrayal of our coastal communities if this opportunity was traded away in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.

“Brexit has the real potential to turn Scotland into a world leading sustainable seafood harvesting and exporting nation.”

Shetland Fishermen's Association executive officer Simon Collins.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said the report confirmed the view of the entire Scottish fishing industry that Brexit created a sea of opportunity for island and coastal communities throughout the UK.

Mr Collins said: “Once out of Europe, the UK will have the right to manage its own waters as it sees fit and control access to them.

“The report shows just how strong a bargaining position we have. We should deny access to our rich and productive fishing grounds to any country not prepared to offer something in return, and by that I mean fairer shares of scientifically agreed quotas.

“We urge the UK and Scottish governments to use their strength in this area to restore pride and dynamism to an industry so cynically sacrificed upon EU entry all those years ago.”

The full report is available via


Add Your Comment
  • David Spence

    • October 12th, 2016 22:39

    I am intrigued as to what exactly is the UK’s EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and how far does this go out from the shore?

    I also believe many fishermen voted to leave the EU on the grounds of the Common Fisheries Policy and how this was counter-productive towards UK and Scottish Fishermen?

    The Conservative Government has not complied with article 50, in regards to giving a precise time the UK will leave the EU? I would also expect the Conservative Government to give some clarity to whatever fishing deals there will be, and whether or not UK/Scottish fishing industries will be better off as a consequence of leaving the EU?

    However, I suspect circumstances now, compared to 40 years ago, are very much different, and I do not think it will be a case of the UK demanding whatever fishing deals they had then to comply to the present day.

    I cannot see how the UK/Scottish Fishing industry will be any better off on its own by leaving the EU, and thinking it can go back to what was before?

    I do admit, my knowledge is rather vague on such matters, and would appreciate further information.

  • ian_tinkler

    • October 13th, 2016 11:07

    exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.[1] It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (nmi) from its coast

    • David Spence

      • October 13th, 2016 18:13

      Ian, do you think the UK, once it officially leaves the EU, has the right to declare what rights it may have over and above local distances (I believe this is 12 miles from the coast) it terms of fishing, energy and even crown just because it is separate from the EU?

      I may be wrong, but I cannot see how the UK Fishing Industry can claim greater than local distances its right to occupy, control and exploit over and above any other country within the (ironically) English Channel, North Sea or parts of the Atlantic or any other area greater than 12 miles from the British coast?

      If there is an EEZ Area (greater than 12 miles) one would presume this area would also be accessible to other countries within Europe and Scandinavia? I cannot see how the UK, can claim sole rights to this area without having to negotiate with the EU or any other country outwith the EU, which would be economically beneficial to all parties involved?

    • Bill Adams

      • October 13th, 2016 18:49

      It is out to 200 miles or to the Median Line where (as between the UK and Norway)
      there is less than 400miles between the respective coasts.

    • David Spence

      • October 14th, 2016 2:42

      Ian, do you honestly believe the UK, can claim upto 200nm as its own in regards to fishing, energy production and sovereignty of all of the North Sea (practically) and a large part of the NE Atlantic? Somehow I do not think the UK will get even near this level of control and right……..not if Norway, Denmark, other European countries and the Faroes have anything to say about it.

      This ludicrous notion that leaving the EU, we will be better off is now proving to be anything but. In fact, it will more than likely be more damaging to the UK economy than any EU Law or Regulation.

      On a brighter note, atleast we can keep the pound, declare the UK as an independent country from our neighbours across the channel, bring mass employment to the country by getting rid of all those foreigners taking local jobs that local people were not wanting to do, destabalise companies who already invested but are now having serious consideration in leaving the UK……………….So much joy and prosperity to look forward too……..NOT!!!!

  • John Jamieson

    • October 13th, 2016 13:47

    Does anybody think that the EU will leave UK waters, handing over 560,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish worth more than £300 annually to the UK fleet, without seeking something substantial in exchange ?
    At the very least the EU would be asking for the reduction to be spread over a number of years with compensation paid to owners of EU vessels that are no longer able to fish for their designated species, etc.
    At the high end, the complexity of the CFP will take a considerable amount of Westminster time after Brexit to replace it with a UK law, consequently retention of most of the CFP as a new bilateral treaty between the EU and UK after Brexit remains a possibility.
    Is there any reason why we should think that the UK fishing industry is no longer seen as expendable in the Brexit negotiations ?

    • John Tulloch

      • October 13th, 2016 19:08

      We don’t know the answer to that, John, but we know the SNP consider the fishing to be expendable. How do we know that?

      Because they have told us so. They want to take Scotland back into the EU, dragging Shetland with them.

      The fact is, Shetlanders can’t trust any of them, we need Faroese-style autonomy so that we have control over our own affairs, including fishing.

      • John Jamieson

        • October 15th, 2016 8:33

        The Scottish Fishing Industry will have no voice in the Brexit talks so is ripe to be exploited for a second time by a Westminster negotiating body.
        Surely a 60/40 vote means that Scotland doesn’t want to leave the EU ?

      • John Tulloch

        • October 15th, 2016 11:41

        60/40 – Precisely, John, neither the Scottish government nor people is prepared to save the fishing industry.

        Shetlanders need control of their own affairs.

      • Brian Smith

        • October 15th, 2016 12:15

        Mr Tulloch and Mr Inkster told us it was essential to vote Leave in the referendum to protect the fishing industry. Now they tell us it won’t, I think.

      • Ali Inkster

        • October 15th, 2016 18:54

        I have said right from the start that we need to get independence for Shetland to protect the fishing industry. That does not mean that getting out of the EU won’t help but if it does not then it will wake up another section of the public to the fact that the only ones that have wir best interests at heart is wis. Holyrood in the shape of all parties have made it quite clear that the ability to go to spain on their holidays without getting a stamp in their passport is more important than protecting the fishing.

      • John Tulloch

        • October 15th, 2016 20:24


        I can’t be bothered to re-till old soil, so I’ll say this to you, once, only:

        My concern was always that Shetlanders should vote to Leave the EU to help defend the fishing. I argued repeatedly that it would send a message to the authorities that we were unhappy with EU fisheries management and would be prepared to take the autonomy route, if necessary.

        Recall that, thanks to the efforts of every establishment figure/pillar in Shetland, including Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA), Shetlanders voted to remain in the EU.

        Funny, the SFA now hails the Brexit “sea of opportunity”?

        The UK Leave decision was a pleasant surprise. It provided a fresh opportunity to fight for the fishing, which is more than we’ll get from whatever party you support this week.

        We have one certainty: Scottish independence means back into the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy – thank you but no thank you!

        Shetlanders need control of our own affairs.

      • John Jamieson

        • October 16th, 2016 18:11

        Shetland and Scotland are in the EU so there is no question of dragging them back into the EU.
        The Scottish Government has fought for the Scottish fishing industry as best it can. With fishing being a reserved matter it has been almost impossible for the Scottish Government to get a representative into the UK negotiating team let alone present its case to teh EU.
        ( Maybe I should have made it clear that the fishermen will have no say because the Scottish Government is going to have no place at the table during Brexit negotiations. )

      • John Tulloch

        • October 17th, 2016 16:09


        Shetland and Scotland will leave the EU along with the UK.

        I heard Nicola Sturgeon say on tv yesterday that she wants Scotland to stay in the EU, regardless, and as we already know, if that doesn’t happen an independent Scotland will take us back in – on much poorer terms than now.

        By staying in the EU they mean for us not to get the fishing back in the first place and if that fails, they will give it back when they take us back in, afterwards.

        So please spare us the guff about the SG “fighting for the fishing”.

    • Ali Inkster

      • October 13th, 2016 19:20

      In answer to your question. Is there any reason why we should think that the UK fishing industry is no longer seen as expendable in the Brexit negotiations ? The answer is none whatsoever, and we should not be relying on holyrood either to protect wir industry in their desperate almost indecent begging to get in to the EU. The only hope that the fishing industry has of someone looking out for their interest is that Shetland follows Faroes example.

      • John Jamieson

        • October 16th, 2016 18:22

        Begging to get into the EU ? We are in the EU and Scots, including Shetland don’t want to leave.
        What will the EU be asking for in the Brexit negotiations in exchange for the loss of UK fishing waters ?

      • Ali Inkster

        • October 17th, 2016 17:01

        Scots and Shetland voted to remain part of the UK, the UK voted to leave the EU. And if you don’t call the embarrassing speech by the snp MEP in Brussels begging to get back in the EU then you definition is different from everybody elses.

      • Brian Smith

        • October 18th, 2016 18:00

        What does Mr Inkster mean by ‘call’ here?

  • David Spence

    • October 14th, 2016 17:16

    If the UK, was to get a deal (and who with?) in regards to fishing area’s outwith their 12 mile limit, what cost would this be in monitoring, policing and making sure such area’s are either the UK’s fishing grounds or mutual agreement between the EU and Scandinavia fishing grounds?

    In regards to Shetland, I would agree what people have said in giving Shetland greater autonomy and control of its fishing grounds, similar to what the Faroes have. However, I cannot see this happening because of other scottish fishing fleets would also want to have access to such grounds as well.

    The model of the Faroes is a good idea for Shetland, but I cannot see this working in a practical, political and economy way.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 17th, 2016 18:45

    “In regards to Shetland, I would agree what people have said in giving Shetland greater autonomy and control of its fishing grounds, similar to what the Faroes have. However, I cannot see this happening because of other scottish fishing fleets would also want to have access to such grounds as well.”. Perhaps in the event of Brexit, other Scottish fishing fleets would have their own waters and lots and lots of that. Think about that David. That’s as long as the SG does not gain control, then everything goes back to Junkers and the EU plunder plan.

  • David Spence

    • October 18th, 2016 21:09

    Ian, you will have to excuse my lack of knowledge on the saud subject, but I cannot see exactly how Scottish fishermen say ‘ they would be better of out of the EU ‘ (not complying with the Common Fisheries Policy) when, like Brexit, there has been no ‘ plan B ‘ in which to talk and negotiate in regards to any trading deals within or outwith (Norway, Iceland, Faroes etc) the EU? Whether such deals will be incorporated within this Governments agenda of negotiations with the EU, are very much in limbo, I think.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the Heath Government, after joining the EU in 1974, regarded the fishing industry, especially in Scotland/Shetland, as expendable? On this basis, I do think this Government will give it little attention in the larger picture of trading deals with the EU?

    However, in light of another possible Scottish Referendum, this would suit the Tories to a T, and delay such talks with the EU, for as long as possible, if at all? In other words, Scottish/Shetland Fishing becoming expendable again?

  • ian tinkler

    • October 19th, 2016 23:00

    Brian, Irrespective of the grandstanding of the SG an indyref 2 is not envisaged by Sturgeon unless there is a hard Brexit. A hard Brexit would mean the UK including Scotland is already out of the EU. (by definition). The whole delay you claim the Tories may be attempting would all be a bit irrelevant and academic would it not, if we are going for a hard Brexit? The SG will only risk an Indy2 if they feel it would be carried. Sturgeon wishes 60% before she would risk that. We are nowhere near that, maybe after a hard Brexit completed, but then Scotland would financially be excluded from joining the EU, in any case (Scotland’s finances are already shot and if you believe the SG financial doom merchants further shot by Brexit. Sackcloth time for all!!) Unless the Tories pull it off and the doom merchants are wrong. Then Sturgeon will be absolutely discredited. then bring on indy2, no sane person would vote for out of the UK, but if that is Scotland’s will so be it. Interesting times. Regarding fishing, a hard Brexit should restore the Status Quo ante. Fishing back to the UK as before joining the EU.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 20th, 2016 8:54

    Sorry, Brians and Davids mixed up. I cannot think why!!!

  • Robin Barclay

    • October 21st, 2016 13:23

    I’m surprised nobody here has mentioned the redrawing of the border between Scottish and English east coast sea areas in which, under Tony Blaire’s government I believe, a very large area of what should be regarded as Scottish sea bed was assigned to England – to bring an area of North Sea gas fields under English administration. I think the Berwickshire fishermen find themselves fishing in English waters off their own shores. Surely this can’t have been legal under international law, irrespective of the two countries currently being incorporated in a union – it is just bullying

  • Haydn Gear

    • October 21st, 2016 19:40

    I can Ian. !!!

  • John Thorburn

    • January 25th, 2017 22:54

    Just my ten penorth on brexit. Well after growing up in the industry and as both grandfathers were herring fishermen one from Fisherrow the other Seahouses. I have seen what the EU has done to my industry. I’m retired now and my part of the world is Northumberland and the Borders where I was a partner in a processing factory both in Seahouses and Eyemouth. What we have left with is practically no white fishing at all just mainly prawner and shellfish boats. Eyemouth no auction fish sales Seahouses shell fishing and tourist trips only North Shields is sadly called a shopping day out for visitors when I think of the fish quantities we bought from Shields and Eyemouth now all a dream. Hopefully when we get out of the tangle of Brussels there’s going to be a future for young ones like I had , fish to be had and processed. That’s the other thing if the EU continues will the processing sector continue, well maybe in PD or the Broch but elswhere I do not know. By the bye we used to buy fish on Newhaven Edinburgh fish market and a great guy I met moved to Shetland Robbie Mcloud of Whalsay Fish, are you still around my friend.
    I say this little epistle with no malice only sadness for folks lost opportunities John Thorburn.

  • John Thorburn

    • January 25th, 2017 23:29

    One point I forgot to raise both fishing families North and Sooth mr Barclay fished happily together lots of boats fished and partnered when ring netting. The Eyemouth and Firth boats fished down here on the Seahouses banks for both herring and whitefish there was friendly rivalry but that was all. I was around. This them and us aka snp gets my goat I’m afraid.


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.