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REPORT: Building resilience of fisheries governance in the North East Atlantic

Climate-related impacts on the range and distribution of commercial fish stocks are likely to intensify in the coming decades, and will increasingly challenge existing institutions and governance arrangements in place to manage associated fisheries. Governance needs to be developed to ensure the benefits of being part of an agreement outweigh the risks — or penalties — of withdrawing from such an agreement.


Climate-related impacts on the range and distribution of commercial fish stocks are likely to intensify in the future and will increasingly challenge fisheries management arrangements.

As stocks shift, ‘winners and losers’ are created amongst coastal states, risking break-down of agreements between coastal states and unilateral quota setting that may result in over-fishing.

Furthermore, political pressures, such as Brexit, are converging under these changing environmental conditions to create an increasingly challenging picture for fisheries governance in the region. 

Ultimately, governance needs to be developed to ensure that the benefits of being part of an agreement outweigh the risks — or penalties — of withdrawing from such an agreement. Existing fisheries governance arrangements in the North East Atlantic region and case studies from around the world, point towards the key features that are required for an adaptive, flexible fisheries governance framework that can respond to climate-related impacts: 

  • An over-arching and long-term cooperation framework, with all relevant parties involved, for the management of shared stocks
  • Coordination of the setting catch limits, management measures and allocations across the North East Atlantic region for widely-distributed stocks
  • Periodic revisiting and review of the arrangements, under defined and agreed terms, to promote both stability and appropriate flexibility
  • Effective, active, mechanisms for dispute-resolution
  • Underpinned by responsive, robust science.

There are opportunities to apply these principles in the North East Atlantic region, building on strengths within the current landscape and strengthening them to respond to these upcoming challenges. With the UK’s impending exit from the EU, the UK Government has the potential to become a new and significant player in the region, providing an opportunity for re-imagining the fisheries governance framework.

The North East Atlantic region has the incentive, scientific knowledge and capability to successfully address these issues and with the right level of cooperation, willingness and ambition, could set a benchmark for fisheries governance in Europe and around the world.

Download ABPmer's fisheries governance report.

Prepared by Suzannah Walmsley, Fisheries Specialist