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Fishing Europe's Troubled Waters: Fifty Years of Fisheries Policy

The cover of “Fishing Europe’s Troubled Waters: Fifty Years of Fisheries Policy”

This book, coming at the end of the author’s celebrated career in social science, reflects on 50 turbulent years of fisheries management and policy in Europe, across a period in which the globalisation of trade, increasing regulation and declining fish stocks have had a radical impact on North Atlantic fisheries. The author considers the origins of the Common Fisheries Policy and the roots of its failure to deliver sustainable fisheries, the flaws of a centralised system and the consequences of Brexit for the UK fishing industry.

Publisher’s description

Spanning the last 50 years of fisheries policy in Europe, this book is the parting contribution and career-spanning reflection from one of Europe’s most renowned social scientists working in the field of fisheries management and policy.

The last 50 years have without doubt been the most turbulent years in the history of North Atlantic fisheries – a turbulence brought about by the actions of fishers, scientists and above all politicians. It is a period of change that sees a radical redrawing of the political geography of fisheries, globalisation of trade, the development of fisheries management towards increasingly restrictive regulation, and declining fish stocks. The book explains why the bold but deeply flawed Common Fisheries Policy persistently failed to deliver its basic goal of sustainable fisheries. The spotlight falls on the monolithic, highly centralised, command and control nature of the Policy that strives to apply a universal ‘one size fits all’ approach, thus creating a governing system wholly unsuited to the system to be governed, out of kilter with preferred models of governance, and disconnected from the practical realities of fishing as a livelihood in a challenging environment. A final section on Brexit focuses on its halting progress from concept to reality, the implications for the fisheries sector and the fateful final negotiations with the EU over the fisheries question. Seeking to explain why the anticipated benefits for the UK industry failed to materialise, attention is drawn to the misplaced political hubris over regaining ‘sovereignty’ in areas like the North Sea.

This book will be essential reading for students, scholars, professionals and policymakers working on fisheries, marine governance, natural resource management, environmental policy and the European Project.



Symes, D. (2023). Fishing Europe's troubled waters: Fifty years of fisheries policy (1st ed., Earthscan oceans). London.

Visit the original item here. See also contributions on fisheries in the TABLE research library.

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