UK sea fisheries policy-making since 1945
Stewart, Heather Jackson
This is a study of approaches to fisheries management in the United Kingdom (UK) between 1945 and 1996. It examines the choices and incentives faced by UK Governments when designing policy instruments to deliver international commitments to sustainable fishing. The failure of international agreements to sustainably manage fisheries resources is often attributed to international institutions, the politicization of negotiations and their distributive outcomes. This thesis makes an original contribution by arguing that the success of international agreements was also dependent upon local negotiations that shaped the design of national delivery mechanisms. The central research question concerns the role and influence of local interests in delivering global economic and environmental agendas and how national governments accommodate local tensions within this process. A sustained content analysis of UK Government archives is used to argue that local political and sectional industry interests had a significant bearing on the development of UK fisheries policy and the design of domestic delivery mechanisms. The exception was UK policy on the international distribution of fisheries resources at the United Nations Law of the Sea Conferences (1958, 1960 and 1973-82). Economic considerations drove early environmental policy with sectional fishing industry interests of secondary importance to the potential economic benefits associated with the more valuable energy resources. In then seeking to implement controls on fishing activity, this thesis argues that UK fisheries management mechanisms were designed to compensate for tension between global commitments mandating a reduction in fishing effort and the local fleets and communities that had to bear the costs of industry contraction. This created a policy-making environment in which social and political motivations continually trumped the application of economic and scientific advice. This advice advocated a contraction in the size of the fleet which had become necessary as technical change and falling stocks resulted in overcapacity. The use of fisheries policy as a political tool to ease local tensions incentivised policy choices that directly contributed to the UK’s failure to reduce fishing pressure and deliver international commitments. This thesis demonstrates the importance of local negotiations and interests in the construction of national and international approaches to environmental and natural resources problems.
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