Call to freeze fishing in Europe to replenish stocks

Crew members of the fishing trawler Diego David sort the catch of sardines and anchovies off the coast of Vigo (file image from December 2005) The European Union has been agonising over fishing policy for years

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A think tank has made a controversial case for freezing fishing in Europe, saying most fish stocks would return to sustainable levels within five years.

The London-based New Economics Foundation (Nef) argues in its report that the suspension would generate billions of pounds in profits by 2023.

Private investment would compensate fishermen and maintain boats.

A senior UK fishing industry representative said stocks were already improving and the idea made no sense.

Unsustainable fishing remains a major issue for the EU, where 75% of stocks are still overfished and catches are only a fraction of what they were 15-20 years ago.

The European Parliament approved measures this week against third countries which allowed the practice.

However, Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki recently reported progress in the fight to reduce overfishing.

No catch?

In its report, No Catch Investment, Nef said it had calculated the costs of restoring fish stocks and found they were far outweighed by the economic benefits in the short and long term.

Estimated restocking times

Fish and chips
  • Mackerel: matter of months
  • Icelandic cod: under five years
  • Skagerrak cod: nine years

source: Nef

It looked at 51 out of 150 commercial fish stocks, including hake, mackerel, whiting and Icelandic cod.

Most, it said, could be restored to sustainable levels within five years, with some varieties such as certain mackerel and herring needing less than a year.

However, some stocks of cod and halibut would take at least nine years to replenish, the Nef report found.

The think tank calculated that private investment of £9.16bn (11.4bn euros; $14.7bn) to manage the fishing freeze would generate profit of £4.43bn by 2023. "By 2052, the returns are £14 for every £1 invested," it said.

The investment would ensure "zero unemployment" among fishermen and would guard against depreciation of their vessels, the Nef argued.

'No sense'

In a recent report, Commissioner Damanaki found that overfishing in the North-East Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea had been reduced from 72% in 2010 to 47% in 2012.

Start Quote

Claims that we are progressing towards sustainable fishing are the equivalent of saying that instead of driving a car over a cliff at 100mph we are driving it at 90mph”

End Quote Aniol Esteban Co-author of Nef report

The number of stocks being fished sustainably had risen from 13 to 19, she said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday, Barry Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO), argued there was no need for the freeze proposed by the Nef.

"I don't think it makes sense at any level: biological, economic or political," he said.

"On the whole, we are already moving towards maximum sustainable yields so why would it make sense to spend these huge amounts of money?"

A freeze on fishing would result in a degeneration of infrastructure and a loss of markets, he said. When the herring industry in the North Sea was closed in the 1970s, he pointed out, "a whole generation lost the art of cooking and eating herring".

Aniol Esteban, who co-authored the Nef report, told the BBC News website that to say Europe was progressing towards sustainable fishing was akin to saying "that instead of driving a car over a cliff at 100mph we are driving it at 90mph".

"Overfishing is not being tackled for the majority of affected stocks, or at a fast enough pace," he added, stressing that the Nef idea would actually boost the fishing industry in the long term.

Asked by the BBC if imports of fish from outside Europe would not have to rise unsustainably as a result of the freeze, he said the alternative to increasing imports was to reduce fish consumption by a fifth until stocks were rebuilt.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Not a problem - no one want your radioactive & chemically contanimated farmed fish from Scotland anyway

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Whenever i see the words think tank , it makes me think vested interests.

    Its very tricky if not impossible to find out where funding comes , but why should such bodies be treat as being experts, when they are not open about there funding.

    Scientific analysis now takes second place where big business is concerned and the BBC would do well to investigate their sources before calling them experts

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    5. Whazzup
    "internationally accepted plan for humanity was to over-populate the planet"

    Not sure that's a 'plan', but I will never understand why economics is still based on the outdated philosophy of an infinite planet. 'Growth' is everything.... until nothing is left.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    This is a great idea in theory but I can't see it happening in reality.

    Human beings only think a day at a time: "How do I eat today?", "How do I travel to work today?" etc.

    There are lots of things we need to do NOW: restrict people to a max of 2 kids, reduce use of fossil fuels - it all just happens TOO SLOWLY if at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    All we have to do is use ALL the fish caught instead of throwing them back dead because it’s too small or the boat is above quota

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    PRIVATIZE the OCEAN just as we do land. would solve this Tragedy of the Commons. If people owned portions of the ocean as we do land the Mackerel, Icelandic and Skagerrak cod would become as ubiquitous as cattle. The Skagerrak cod and co need more capitalism!

    Your answers lie here friends :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    International fishing has been at "unsustainable levels" for years, the problem worsens daily. The only way to get fish stocks to increase is to introduce low fishing limits that will encourage stock recovery internationally, not just in the EU: police it by heavily fining / banning any trawler/company that exceed the limit. We can help by not buying the fish, thereby stopping the supply/demand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a life time. Except when the E.U come in and freeze fishing, decrease quotas and generaly *naughty word* all over the fisherman. Do something about the big trawlers that strip the sea from France, Spain and other European countries. Stop taking it out on the little man. Yet another reason to get out of the E.U

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Well, it's a simple choice. We keep on as we are and lose the fish or we take control over it. How short term do we feel like thinking today?

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    I would suggest stopping the hoover-type fishing vessels that seem to have become the norm would be a good start.

    Other issues would be a more national approach to fishing, so only boats from the countries close to certain fishing areas could fish there. No Spaniards in the North Sea, for example

    And finally, let's regard population growth as the disaster it is!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    It's not gonna work. And besides, European fleets are fishing in big style in other people's waters, e.g. off the coast of West Africa, in the Indian ocean etc. They aren't the only ones to fish in foreign waters but are decimating the stocks. Only the stocks off Somalia are intact. Coincidence? Not really. High time to ban them from fishing there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    We don't need a total blanket ban what we need is more regulated conservation areas. Only about 2% I believe of our waters is designated a conservation area, maybe if that was 20% then nature will cling on and would stand a chance, however keep hammering it from every direction and it wont be long before the inevitable happens!

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    It would be like our Steel production. The U K cut steel production to comply with the E U and no other country in the E U cut theirs. Why does the U K play by the rules and every other country ignore them. We have given enough away already

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Sort out the bi-catch laws and that will help a lot. Also agree that who will make sure that the French and Spanish will do the right thing, no chance!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I know it's their livelihood but Europe's fishermen need to remember what happened to the Grand Banks. Some catch is better than none at all.

    But human nature being what it is, quotas will never work. A huge cut in the number of boats across the whole of Europe - not just Scotland - is needed. Unfortunately, politicians care more about elections than fish stocks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    As devestating to our economy as it'd be to leave the EU completely in some ways I'd like us to just to see smile wiped off the faces of the knee jerk reactionary little englanders who just blaming everything on the EU......

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I can't speak with any authority about European waters, but all the records from 1851-1965 suggest that the NW Atlantic is down to less than 1% of the fish biomass it contained in, say, 1890. Swordfish were once an inshore day-boat harpoon catch, and bluefin tuna were a nuisance catch in weirs and fish traps along shore. But then, the biomass of forage fish was vastly greater than it is today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    In case anyone with more than a single brain cell ever wondered how the heck the EU ended up running our fishing waters

    Margaret Thatcher swapped all our UK fishing rights for a reduced contribution to the EU budget in the 1980s

    Everything the EU touches turns to dust Fishing and Financial services are a gold plated warning for ordinary people

    If you want a future for your children avoid the EU

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    95.Fred Bloggs

    "Typical, you don't like the taste of fish so ban it. Don't suppose you like smoking or drinking much either do you?Carry on and they will ban something you like..."

    Actually I drink like a "fish" and smoke too. I want fishing banned because I find killing millions of tonnes of marine animals abhorent. As a scuba diver I prefer seeing my fish alive in their natural element

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    MPs and MEPs are too scared to follow this correct proposal.

    Wish that they could apply common sense but under the pressure from the fishing industry they will always follow the few voters/companies which profit from fishing.

    I see no reason for any compensation. They have profited for many years from nature's resources and they should now stop doing that. Fish belongs to all of us.


Page 8 of 14


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