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Maximum sustainable yield? Fish, fishers and people

Appleby, Thomas; Everard, Mark; Simpson, Stephen


Mark Everard
Associate Professor in Ecosystem Services

Stephen Simpson


This paper examines the basis of 4 fundamental laws governing fisheries and human interaction with the sea: coastal states’ rights, obligations for sustainable fishing, duties for health and safety at sea and the public trust obligations in the way the UK manages its resource. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) grants coastal states sovereign rights to fish to the edge of their ‘exclusive economic zone’ (usually a 200 mile limit). Those rights are qualified to the coastal state having a duty to maintain or restore fish stocks to maximum sustainable yield (MSY). MSY is not defined in UNCLOS but has been interpreted to relate to a stock by stock assessment rather than a view of the health of the ecosystem as a whole. Despite UNCLOS many coastal states fish well beyond MSY and even the reformed European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy only commits the EU to reach MSY for its stocks by 2020. Unsurprisingly fish stocks have been decimated, though the bones of reform are in place. The Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997 give the basis for health and safety at sea, yet there would appear to still be problems. A 2008 report by Swansea University concluded an unacceptably high mortality rate among UK fishers. This has been compounded by recent reports in the UK press of the use of illegal immigrants and even ‘slaves’ on vessels in UK waters. In the UK the right to fish is held on trust for the public, yet unlike in the management of most public property there is no clear plan to get the most public benefit from the UK fishery. There is valuable opportunity from implementing the existing regulations to benefit the health of fish, fishers and people, simply by posing the question: ‘what do we want from our oceans?’


Appleby, T., Everard, M., & Simpson, S. (2014, March). Maximum sustainable yield? Fish, fishers and people. Presented at Oceans and Human Health Conference, Bedruthan

Presentation Conference Type Speech
Conference Name Oceans and Human Health Conference
Conference Location Bedruthan
Start Date Mar 20, 2014
End Date Mar 21, 2014
Publication Date Mar 21, 2014
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords fish, fisher, health, environment, marine conservation, law
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : Oceans and Human Health Conference