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Fisheries law in action: An exploration of legal pathways to a better managed marine environment

Appleby, Thomas



This narrative addresses the issue of fisheries law, a specialist area combining aspects of international law, EU law, legislation from the UK and the devolved administrations and the common law. The research appraised and analysed marine fishing rights, the ownership of the UK marine fishery and the establishment of marine protected areas both under UK and aspects of EU law. The research adopted a doctrinal method triangulated via professional examples adopting aspects of action research.

The scientific research, on which this research drew, established that there is a serious decline in UK fisheries and an urgent need to bring in measures to safeguard the fishery.

The research found significant failings in the common law public right to fish, which designated the UK’s entire marine area as a fishery without apparent reasonable limitations as to use. It found that the absence of a stated public owner of the fishery with clear public duties makes it difficult to secure the public interest.

It also highlighted the absence of clarity in the creation of derivative rights in the public fishery such as fishing quota, estimated in 1999 to be worth £1 billion. The research demonstrates the significant shortfall in the number of statutory marine protected areas created under the Marine Acts and raises concerns that these statutory measures could lead to paper parks with no active management measures. It shows the effectiveness of the application of the Habitats Directive to protect European marine sites and concludes that other European legislation could similarly be used to protect the marine environment from fisheries.

It also found a lack of a coherent narrative relating to the mechanics and powers and duties of UK fisheries managers and concluded that there should be more comprehensive guidance on UK fisheries law, as the last comprehensive fishery texts date from the nineteenth century.

The research recommends new Fisheries Acts to remedy some of the apparent defects in UK fisheries law.


Appleby, T. Fisheries law in action: An exploration of legal pathways to a better managed marine environment. (Thesis). University of the West of England

Thesis Type Thesis
Keywords law, marine environment, conservation, fish, habitats management


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