- Marine conservation advocacy group Oceana has published its first fish audit
- They found that only 37 of the 104 fish stocks are currently at a healthy size
- This includes UK favourite cod — which has been 'significantly overfished'
- Oceana is calling on Defra to follow the science when setting future catch limits
- Without such measures, the fishing industry will suffer in the long run, they saidOverfishing has put 60 per cent of the UK's fish stocks at risk of collapse — with North Sea cod, crab and herring among those in a critical state, a report has warned.
The audit — by marine conservation charity Oceana — found that only 37 of the 104 stocks examined were of a healthy size and only 38 were exploited sustainably.
Oceana is calling on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to follow scientific guidance when setting catch limits to preserve our fish.These fishing rate recommendations are calculated to allow populations to recover and reproduce as to maintain fish stocks in the long run.
Without such measures, they warned, marine life, coastal communities and the fishing industry itself will suffer in the long run.
Scroll down for video
'It is shocking to find that 6 out of 10 of the UK's most important fish stocks are overfished or in a critical situation,' said Oceana's head of UK policy, Melissa Moore.
'This report provides clear evidence that setting catch limits higher than those recommended by scientists is causing stocks of some of the UK's best-loved fish, like cod, to rapidly decline.'
'Those currently taking part in negotiating catch limits for 2021 must set them in line with scientific advice and not push for continued overfishing.'
'There is an opportunity and a responsibility for the UK to lead the way in achieving sustainable fisheries.'The audit revealed that the majority of the UK's ten most economically important fish stocks have either been overfished or are at a critical low level.
These include North Sea cod, North Sea herring, Southern North Sea crab, Eastern English Channel scallops, North East Atlantic blue whiting and North Sea whiting.
The fate of cod — an iconic species in the UK — is of particular concern, with Oceana attributing its significant overfishing in recent years to 'political decisions' that have lead to a series of declines and collapses in cod stock.
Only stocks of the North East Atlantic mackerel, North Sea haddock and West of Scotland Nephrops, a type of lobster are both healthy and being sustainably fished.
This is because catch limits for these species have been set at, or below, the recommended sustainable limits in recent years, demonstrating the positive impact of following marine conservation guidelines, Oceana experts said.
For North Sea anglerfish — the other of the UK's top ten economically important fish — there is presently insufficient data to make a reliable assessment, they added.
The findings of the audit come as the UK and the European Union begin negotiations to set so-called 'total allowable catch' limits for shared fish stocks for this year.
According to Oceana, the strong EU fisheries regulatory framework — including the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) — has seen the overfishing rate for fish populations drop from around 66 to 38 per cent.
However, the report warns, the Fisheries Act 2020 — which has replaced the CFP in the UK's waters — is less rigorous, laying out sustainability objectives but failing to compel all stocks to be fished in accordance with scientific guidance.Overfishing must be made 'a thing of the past', Oceana experts said, in order to allow marine life the chance to rebound and build resilience to large-scale threats such as climate change.
The full findings of the report are published on the Oceana website.