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Monday, 25 January 2021

North Sea cod, herring and crab are in a 'critical state' due to overfishing as charity warns 60 PER CENT of UK's fish stocks are at risk of collapse

  • 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.

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    Overfishing 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. Pictured: a fishing boat

    Overfishing 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. Pictured: a fishing boat

    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. Pictured, a crate of cod

    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. Pictured, a crate of cod

    Oceana is calling on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to follow scientific guidance when setting catch limits to preserve our fish. Pictured: the difference between the advised and set catch limits for the UK's most economically important fish

    Oceana is calling on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to follow scientific guidance when setting catch limits to preserve our fish. Pictured: the difference between the advised and set catch limits for the UK's most economically important fish

    '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. 

'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. Pictured, an edible crab trapped in an abandoned pot off the Scottish coast
'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. Pictured, a European plaice (right)

'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. Pictured, an edible crab trapped in an abandoned pot off the Scottish coast (left) and a European plaice (right)

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 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

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

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 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.

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. Pictured: Herring

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. Pictured: Herring

COD AND HADDOCK AT RISK 

Overfishing has decimated cod and haddock stocks a number of times.

Most recently, haddock from three North Sea and west of Scotland fisheries were removed from sustainable seafood lists because stocks had fallen below acceptable levels in 2017.

During the 1990s, Newfoundland in Canada was forced to ban cod fishing because stocks were nearly wiped out.

While rising sea temperatures reduces the size of cod and haddock, it also forces the fish further north in search of cooler waters.

Other fish not traditionally found in UK waters will appear more frequently too  — with mixed consequences.

For example, cuttlefish and sardines are being caught in increasing numbers, but experts have warned slipper limpets could ruin oyster and mussel beds.

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