How can the UK's fishing stocks be preserved?
Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 December, 2004
The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) warns that continuing with piecemeal adjustments will leave the fishing industry with little future.
Sir Tom Blundell, chairman of the RCEP, said the presumption in favour of fishing should be reversed. He added that the sea needed to be treated in the same way as endangered land habitats.
Do you agree with the Royal Commission's proposals? What is the best way to preserve Britain's fishing stocks? How will the proposals affect you?
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
It seems incredible that the fishing industry can be
so shortsighted and not learn from their own mistakes. Likewise the people that seem to
think these are 'our' fish to do with as they like. Living by the sea, I can vouch for the
reduction in the mackerel stock. They used to be a regular feature of my boyhood summers
when they shoaled close to shore. A sight I have not seen for many years.
Given the current policy on bans, I suppose a ban on
fish and chip shops is next. The real problem, like so much else, is not depopulation of
the fish but overpopulation amongst humans. If we're going to cut back on anything how
about the human population?
Stop trying to protect those poor fisherman and
fishing communities from seeing the truth. Just because you did something in the past,
doesn't make it good now. Fisherman have to wake up to the fact there isn't enough fish in
the sea. Therefore we should help these communities adapt to the modern world. Perhaps
encouraging fish farms.
Stop fish farming. It is a fact that in order to
produce 1 ton of farmed fish, 12 ton of wild fish must be caught. The fish that form the
basis of farmed fish's diet are mainly sand eels . They also form the diet of sea birds
and sea bird colonies are starving from lack of food.
I lived in Hull for much of my earlier life when the
city was the biggest fishing port in the UK. I can remember seeing massive catches of cod
and haddock being landed with a significant portion of the catch going for fish manure as
its size was deemed too small for the fishmonger. We plundered the seas 40 years ago and
now we're paying the price. The small fish that once was converted into manure is now the
fare on the fishmongers' slabs.
In my view, Edward Heath destroyed the British
Fishing Industry when he signed the UK up for the Common Fisheries Policy in order to join
the Common Market. We should come out of the CFP and declare a 200 mile limit where
possible around our shores and exclude the other EU fishing fleets. Iceland and Norway did
this with great success. There does not appear to be a problem in their waters.
Get out of the EU and use a minute proportion of the
billions we put into it every year to compensate the UK fishing fleets until the fishing
grounds have recovered. After a recovery period, drop the compensation and then initiate a
real and sustainable fishing policy for the UK's much reduced fishing fleets. This would
be sensible so will probably never happen.
Having lived in Canada until 10 years ago I find this
debate brings back some very bad memories. There is still no commercial cod fishery off
Newfoundland after almost 10 years of closure. Reports such as the current UK one (and
this not the first one) were produced by Fisheries Canada and ignored by all governments
(including those of the European Union) during the 1980's. My prediction is that this UK
report will be effectively ignored and another one will be produced in about two years
reporting that the stocks are in even dire shape. If the Newfoundland example is followed
then real action will only be taken when there are no fish left to save.
As someone who spends a lot of time at sea sailing
and diving, it is obvious that the fishing industry is destroying our sea. It needs to be
regulated, restricted and excluded from large areas of our coastal waters and seas to
allow regeneration before it is too late. Many once common species are now rare in our
waters - herring, tuna, cod, skate, sharks, salmon, sea trout. What will be next?
Unfortunately this seems to be another case of the
human race consuming limited resources too quickly, in a short-sighted manner. It would be
nice if we had a government who would actually take a long term view, and make some tough
decisions to safeguard our future. Somehow I doubt it will happen though as everything
revolves around money.
I am saddened that this debate has become an excuse
to beat up the EU. Listening to Sir Tom Blundell this morning, the EU was not an issue.
The issue is a global problem with overfishing and we need to be part of the solution not
the problem. Whining on about whose fault it is won't stop a catastrophe in fishing
stocks, taking action will.
Fish farming is the only sustainable option for the
future of our oceans. Seafood is the only wild harvest that we humans still depend on -
fruits, vegetables, poultry and livestock are all farmed. Future generations will find it
unbelievable that we kept harvesting wildlife from the oceans for so long.
In Canada, we have heard all the problems, reasons
and excuses before. By 1992 the fishing industry on the east coast of Canada had collapsed
and remains so today. The only recourse is a complete ban on fishing whilst monitoring the
stock levels and hope they will improve sooner rather than later.
Stop buying and eating so much fish and let market
forces control the amount of fishing that is required.
The sea belongs to everyone and no one and therefore
no one believes it's their responsibility to maintain it properly. This is a crisis of
disaster proportions and if a moratorium on fishing is needed then the industry only has
itself to blame.
Intensive fishing, like its cousin intensive farming,
simply exploits animals and nature to destruction. It is perfectly possible to live a
healthy life on a vegetarian diet and at the same time spare the land and the seas from
pollution and destruction. I have lived for years like this. I know it's controversial
(although I don't understand why) but right there is the answer not only to the fishing
problem, but also the problem of feeding the world, saving water, and cutting out a great
deal of pollution. Anyone who doubts my claim can join me in my next half marathon!
I agree with the proposals completely. Having been a
Harbour Enforcement officer at a fishing port however, I foresee that the usual
individuals that vacuum the sea and don't care about the stocks will carry on doing it and
the ones that do care will carry on being made to look like fools. Unless strong
enforcement via an increased numbers of fishery protection officers and vessels is allowed
for, then any sensible concepts like this will always be doomed to fail.
The best way for us to preserve our fish stocks is to
withdraw asap from the Common Fisheries Policy of the EU and police thereafter foreign
trawlers over-fishing our waters. I believe our own fishermen are following the
regulations to the letter but trawlers from within the EU and Russia are scooping the seas
around our small island without care or concern.
My only concern would be whether banning fishing from
a third of UK waters would be too little too late. Whatever happens it needs to be rigidly
enforced NOW. Whilst having sympathy with the fishermen it's obvious that no fish equals
This report may come as a shock to some people.
However marine scientists like myself who monitor these fisheries and meet every year in
ICES (the International Council for the exploration of the Sea) workshops have been
recommending a drastic reduction in commercial fishing practices in UK waters from
European vessels (especially deep-water fishing) since the mid 1990s. Although a cut in
hours fished at sea is possibly the only way of saving some fish species, for some
deep-water stocks it may be too little too late. The blame for stocks collapsing lie
firmly at the foot of the fisheries ministers who meet in Brussels.
This is yet another example of the benefits of EU
membership. Iceland had a better idea, with its 200 mile Iceland only fishing limit. The
situation is not helped by decades of government policy which allowed the sea to be used
as rubbish dump and open sewer.
Deja-vu anyone? - A report pointing out the
disastrous decline in fish stocks - A leader of fishermen claiming we are not over fishing
now - A ministry that will do nothing - An EU that will bleat on about 'equal access' and
compromise fishing policy It is Christmas so I suppose we ought to have hope, but ten
years of history tells us politicians, the EU and our own, will do nothing until it is too
What's more important here - the livelihood of a tiny
percentage of the workforce, or potentially permanent damage to the ecosystem of the North
Sea? I know which I would choose to sacrifice.
This will make more Scottish fisherman redundant with
the large European fleet reaping the benefits.
Every year scientists advise the government on how
many fish of each species may be caught in order to maintain current stocks. For decades
this advice has been ignored, and the catch allowance has been raised, due to pressure
from trawlermen. We are now seeing the result of this. If this trend continues, we will
have economic extinction of certain species, as has happened in Canada.
If we assert our fishing rights in our own waters for
our own fishermen only, and go along with these proposals, then we will reap a bonanza in
six years time. WWII proved that even desperately low stocks can replenish in that period.
As a child we read in geography books that the Dogger
Bank in the North Sea was full of herring and fished by drifters. My uncle had such a
fleet but over fishing just after the war cleared out all the herring and the stocks have
never recovered. Trawlers do much more environmental damage than drifters ever did. The
fishing industry should take its head out of the sand, think to the future and accept
I live just outside a fishing port, and it has
already suffered. We must be mad, using our taxes to pay our own fishermen to put
themselves out of work (and all the processors, boat builders etc who won't get
compensation) while also paying tax to the EU who allow the Irish to subsidise new boats,
and let the French and Spanish, the Danish et al fish our waters out. If the boot was on
the other foot, do you really think the French or Spanish would let us fish there?
Why not ban large fishing trawlers and stipulate the
maximum size of a net? This way, less fish will caught and stocks will be given the chance
I agree but in addition there needs to be a worldwide
approach to managing the seas.
I agree. The best way to preserve fishing stocks is
to create sanctuaries and ban industrial fishing methods where half of the catch is thrown
back into the sea dead, anywhere. The problem isn't the EU, it's the might of the fishing
lobby, that always says there's plenty of fish, or they have just installed new and
environment friendly techniques.
I live right on the coast and gave up fishing because
miles of gill nets and trawlers coming right up to the rock ends ensure that hardly any
fish reach beach. Many countries have discovered that recreational angling makes more
money than commercial, why can't this one?
A review of fishing practices may be a step forward.
Fish only in specified areas to allow others to flourish
The reality can be seen in the size and price of fish
in the UK. It's clear that if something radical isn't done then there will be no fish for
Keep British waters for British fishermen. That would
be a good start.
Perhaps if the EU didn't let the Spanish sail into
our waters and pinch all our fish when our own trawlers are not allowed out to fish, this
crisis wouldn't have happened. It seems incredible that an island nation can have its
fishing industry virtually wiped out by bureaucracy, whereas other countries seem to be
able to fish with impunity.