Has the IEA delivered a post-Brexit fisheries solution?

Sea Change: How markets and property rights could transform the fishing industry.

The upcoming departure of the UK from the EU provides many opportunities to improve current policies. I was looking forward to reading this post Brexit solutions paper from the IEA.


Personal View

I’ve been working in fisheries for more than 25 years on and off. There are plenty of fisheries in the world that are both profitable and sustainable. It makes sense to copy and learn from them.

Personally, I believe the best way to secure profitable and sustainable fisheries is through market-based approach.  Subsidies do not work and should be phased out or preferably simply banned. There is no reason for discarding dish. It makes bad economics and the technology exists to make enforcement simple. A decent centralised market space solution is the best one. I have taken these broad approaches even when I worked as the Head of WWF’s European Marine Programme, but these views are my own.

What I was looking forward to

I was expecting to see such a plan from the IEA in this publication. The pamphlet is useful for those with no or very limited knowledge of fisheries policy and economics. But, it falls short of a serious roadmap for delivering a sustainable and profitable UK fishing industry.

I skimmed through most of the chapters. I have read most of the materials that are mentioned. It is a useful summary of current thinking.


What I found

The European common fisheries policy is dealt with in chapter 3. It provides a useful summary of the development of the CFP.

I am more struck by the gaps.

First, it is perplexing to see the from the pages of a so-called free market think tank the implicit support for the idea of discrimination on the ownership of assets based on nationality. That, is after all, all that is at stake by not allowing third country fishermen to buy quota and fish in British waters.

It would be ridiculous to require only “native born” people to own land in Britain, or a company, or any other form of property.  The European Union has always upheld the important idea of the free movement and nondiscrimination. The idea that there is a problem that a Dutch vessels owns a large amount of the UK quota is perplexing. Anyway,it was  the UK government who opposed the idea of requiring the quota owner to land their catch locally.

Second, it fails to note that fishermen from Britain have been fishing in third country waters for many hundreds of years as have fishermen, from other countries. These historic rights have been recognised by the 1964 Hague Convention. The common fisheries policy imported many of these historic rights.

Third, what is curious, is that when even considering the reason for TACs being set too high is only that  Ministers asked for higher catches “to avoid their own national quotas from being cut” (page 68). This bookish analysis has overlooked the fishermen themselves were in denial of the state of stocks, and actively and effectively lobbied their ministers and the commission to set the quotas to high.

Fourth, it is also curious there is no substantive consideration of the widespread industrialisation of fisheries from the early 1970s. Technological creep is seriously overlooked by the author. The decline in fish stocks and the corresponding decline in jobs can as well be levelled at vessel owners investment, sometimes with the support of state subsidies, to build massive vessels for industrialised fishing.

It is important to note that there is no genuine issue with large-scale vessels. Sure, it allows fishing at sea for longer, but, it has the advantage of fisheries being safer, and all into important factor in what is still the most dangerous profession that exists. Small-scale fisheries are not by their nature more sustainable, even though many people believe this to be the case. Some of the most sustainable economic fisheries of the mega hundred metre long mackerel fishery is the north-east Atlantic.

Fifth,the author is correct in the lack of political will to deal with overcapacity. The lack of will was felt in most countries. The lack of political will to address control and enforcement was and is a serious issue. However, only Denmark seriously addressed the issue of control and enforcement, and few other countries were serious about it. Even the United Kingdom until recent years was plagued by illegal landings, questionable employment practices of migrants, and what can only be described as opaque ownership of quotas.

Sixth,the  reference to, without serious examination, of the idea of days at sea is startlingly. It  has been used in other regimes, such as the Faroe Islands. It has been an economic and stock disaster.

What is important is what the report does not mention.

Seven, Member states have been free to introduce free-market regimes within the existing common fisheries policy. Denmark and Estonia introduced ITQs. This helped address the issue of overcapacity in the market, and incentivized good stock management.

Eight, under the old common fisheries policy substantial discard ban trials existed. I worked with Denmark to introduce one many years ago. It worked. Before the new common fisheries policy, discard trials happened in other countries including the United Kingdom in England and in Scotland. They were  a success.

Ninth, the report fails to mention that then Commissioner Damanaki, a former Communist revolutionary, introduced in the Commission’s proposal the idea of mandatory  rights based management like ITQs. This was opposed by many countries including the United Kingdom.

Tenth, The report also does not mention the new common fisheries policy was inspired by the practice and lessons of Iceland and in particular Norway. It is interesting to note that this booklet does not consider seriously  Norway. Is this because many years ago then socialist fisheries minister overnight banned subsidies and discards and introduced mandatory ITQs.



These are things the UK could do overnight. Indeed,  it could now most of it today. But, Ministers and officials, who are all too often too close to the fishing industry prefer a more cosy pact.

I look forward to a system that ensures a profitable and sustainable fisheries. The manual needs to be written.

Values for Campaigns – Why they work

Today, I was lucky to attend a talk by Chris Rose the author of “What Makes People Tick”.


He explains how different people  think and act differently. They even use different words.  There are 12 groups of people divided between settlers, prospectors and pioneers.


For more information, I recommend you read the excellent site by Pat Dade and Cultural Dynamics (here).

NGOs and campaigners are dominated by transcender pioneers. I am one of them.  You can  sit in a  room of men and women you’ve never met before who, more or less, think and speak in the same way as you.

 Don’t Do This

The  powerful insight was a bunch of pioneers trying to get settlers to do what pioneers want usually leads to the settlers getting angry.

Instead, the most effective way to persuade  settlers is often emulation rather than any form of perceived coercion.

It Works, So Why Do So Few People Use it

  I have learned that using the language that is common to your target group – whether they are settlers, prospectors or pioneers –  and translating your message into the language of  your target group, leads to a greater chance that they will  pickup and accept your case.

However, for reasons that are not clear to me, campaigners for NGOs and industry, seem reluctant to adopt this tactic. They find it somehow distasteful. It is like people will only want  to win on their own terms, by using their own language, with their own arguments, rather than persuading their target group with more suitable ideas and words . I don’t have this intellectual  or emotional baggage baggage.

Big Data

 big data is making its micro-targeting of individuals easier and more effective. This company , Cambridge Analytica, helped the Brexit and Trump campaigns. You can now target your message very specifically to the right people with the right language and values.

20 Questions to ask before you sign up an Agency or NGO to run your campaign

I have been asked by companies and Foundations what “would you look for from an Agency or NGO before paying them to run a campaign for you”.

I have sat down and written out a checklist of 20 questions I would ask.

The questions are focused on a political campaign on EU legislation, regulatory decisions or public policy decisions. It is not directed to communications campaigns.

The questions are appropriate whether you are funding a NGO campaign or industry campaign.

The questions may be considered direct. They are. Important things are at stake and they deserve clear answers.

I have seen good and bad proposals. I think if these 20 questions can be answered clearly you are off to a good start to winning.



  1. Do they (Agency or NGO) understand the issue: political, regulatory, legislative?
  2. Have they challenged your brief? Hopefully, the agency/NGO will have a better understanding of the process than you. They may, reveal misunderstanding on your part, and save you a fortune.
  3. Do they understand the legislative process/public policy process at play?
  4. Have they gone through  a similar or identical process? Did they win?
  5. Do they know the real decision-makers and influencers on your issue in Brussels and national capitals?
  6. Do they have access to the key decision makers and influencers?
  7. Do they have a good working relationship with the key players? A good proxy is to ask to see the mobile numbers. Can they step into the regulator/politicians shoes and understand the other side?
  8. Do they know the real rules of the game? Every area will have unwritten rules known only to real practitioners. You better have someone advising you who knows the real rules of the game.
  9. Have they run and won on this issue or similar issue before? You will want people who have gone through the fire and back a few times and lived to tell the tale. You would not hire a guide who drives his clients off a cliff.
  10. Can they show you the pathways out of where you are to where you want to go? If they can do it visually with a process map it is better.
  11. Can they make your issues clear for the right audiences? Simply repeating your mantras is not going to help you.
  12. Can they coach you to say the right things, to the right people, at the right time?
  13. Can they scale up and down, bring new skills and expertise on board, as and when needed.
  14. If you ask them to wear “GoPro” whilst working on their work, they say “sure thing”? Are they happy to know where your money is being spent 24/7? Do they have a clear budget and clear reporting on spending? Will you know what you are paying for?
  15. Do they project manage by email or do they provide an accessible online and updated program management?
  16. Do they have a Rolodex of the 250 key decision-makers in the opinion formers on your issue in their proposal?
  17. Can you afford them?
  18. Do they have the skills to translate your case and message to 27 political cultures in Europe? Values in different countries and for different political Parties vary. Can they bridge the gap?
  19. Who are you really buying? Are buying an expert but land up buying an intern working 18 hour days.
  20. Do you trust them? This is the most important question.


What I would not ask

  1. Do you understand their industry? There really are more than enough technical experts around. If technical experts were needed, you would not be hiring political consultants.
  2. Will you work with other service providers? The client will source the best expertise they can, and they will want their consultant(s) to work with other service providers.

A salesforce for political campaigns?



Political lobbying is not difficult. It really comes down to 5 things. It is about knowing:


  1. the key (law) making process
  2. the key people,
  3. the positions of the key people,
  4. persuading enough of the key people to back your position.
  5. having people on board who can persuade key people


A lot of campaigns and organizations have some elements of 1 to 5. Few, have all. You may well have intricate knowledge of the legislative process you’re engaging with. You may know who this hidden key decision-makers and politicians are. Indeed, you may have well-crafted print position papers that address most, if not all, of these key people’s concerns. But, if you do not have colleagues or supporters who can persuade those key decision makers to back you and support you, it really amounts to nothing. If you cannot persuade the right people to back you on the day, it means nothing.


A checklist could look like this:


  • Do you know the key processes? Law making is just that. It follows rules and procedures. Quotas of votes need to be assembled and those quotas change depending on where you are in the procedure.
  • Where you are in the process. Are you too early, or more often, too late to intervene?
  • What are key issues? What is important to you may not be important to the people making the decisions. Maybe your view of what something says is not their view.
  • Who makes the key decisions. Do you know the names of the men and women who are making the decisions? In the EU, I guestimate this is about 250 men and women in Brussels and the national capitals. Often, some-one few people have heard about will be a vital player.
  • When is the key decision being taken? Often voting lists are decided in advance of the formal vote.  This means you can know the outcome days, or weeks, in advance.
  • Do you have contact details of the key decision- makers? It goes without saying, it is hard to contact people if you don’t know how to get hold of them.
  • Can you, or your allies or supporters get access to these key 250 people?
  • Who is speaking to the key decision-makers and are they really doing that.
  • Do you get feedback on how people are going to vote?


Strangely, too many campaigns fall because people don’t follow these old-school rules.


If there is software that makes their job easier that would be great. Perhaps, there is a salesforce for political campaigns. Please let me know if there is.