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Title: The transformation of British fisheries policy, 1967-83
Author: Vickers, Stephen
ISNI:       0000 0001 3547 0051
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1986
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It is the contention of this study that the nature of fisheries imposes specific biological and economic imperatives on any system of fisheries management, and that unless these imperatives are heeded in formulating such a system fisheries will decline and fishing industries collapse. Throughout the period under review the rationale behind UK policy on limits lay outside the fisheries sector, and a structurally-imposed subordination to policy considerations external to fisheries resulted in somewhat inappropriate arrangements in fisheries management. The principal determinant of the UK position on limits policy was the preoccupation at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the view that extensions of coastal state, jurisdiction threatened navigational rights. This inappropriateness resulted from the weakness of the fisheries constituency, both absolutely and relative to other lobbies with conflicting interests and needs. In addition, on many issues, opinion within the fishing industry was divided, and the signals conveyed to government were conflicting or misleading. Moreover, political debate on fisheries questions was inappropriate and ill-informed. Positions adopted, whether by political parties or individual MPs, were largely defined by considerations external to fisheries: these were generally either related to maintenance of employment, or were the direct consequences of MPs' attitudes to NATO or to the European Economic Community (EEC). The inappropriateness of the fisheries regime led to the decline and collapse of many fish stocks and to recurrent economic crises within the fishing industries of many states. These fisheries crises combined with other factors to make the seaward extension of their jurisdiction appear more attractive to many governments. This process took place in the United Kingdom also, since during the period the nature of UK government interests in relation to marine policy changed: the merchant navy declined, marine pollution aroused public concern and the offshore oil-fields were developed. The Royal Navy retreated to a regional posture, and so freedoms of navigation declined in importance. The actions of OPEC and OAPEC over oil supplies raised the importance to the government of maximising the extent of the continental shelf under UK control. In addition, major changes took place in the nature of the fisheries constituency. It rose from operating at a low level, and fairly ineffectively to operating at a high level and effectively. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that the fishing industry was able to gain a unity of purpose on fisheries limits (though on little else) because its principal actor, the "deep sea" fleet, declined in importance, and its remnant was forced to seek fishing grounds nearer home. Fluctuations in the market for fish and a quadrupling of oil prices led to severe financial losses, and in addition the "deep sea" fleet's habitual grounds disappeared as other states extended their fisheries jurisdiction to include them. A second and much more telling reason for the rise in the industry's effectiveness, was that two high policy issues arose on which the interests of the fishing industry accorded neatly with that of two powerful political coalitions: those who wished at all costs to prevent the SNP's capturing more than half of the Scottish parliamentary seats, and those who opposed either the principle of or the arrangements for UK membership of the EEC. Whitehall's initial reaction to such changes was to make adjustments within the framework of existing high policy, and where possible with a minimum of institutional innovation, with the result that new fisheries policies, although more appropriate to the specific imperatives of fisheries than were the old policies, were maintained and contained within administrative arrangements which had been formulated for reasons other than fisheries. Several years of instability and decline resulted, until finally at the beginning of 1983 the rudiments of a new equilibrium were established, one which attempted at least to take cognizance of fisheries biology and economics.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Social Science Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: SH Aquaculture. Fisheries. Angling