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 143.

    What's the point, the Japanese will just show up with their super trawlers and take what they want, and we wouldn't stop them

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    can we extend the ban to the overfishing we (thats us, the UK) do off the coast of west africa that has decimated stocks there, and subsequently communites too? Or how about off Somalia, thats crashed stocks and turned fishermen into pirates?

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Just a thought - can we not clone fish?

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Time to Privatize the Ocean! We do it with land. It would solve this Tragedy of the Commons. Allowing people to own portions of the ocean, the Mackerel, Icelandic and Skagerrak cod would become as ubiquitous as cattle. The Skagerrak cod and co needs to benefit from property rights protections & capitalism!

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.


    There would have been enormous amounts of evidence to prove this theory, as a scientist can not make a statement they know to be true without first proving it.

    Particularly in a complex, mixed and multinational fishery such as the UKCS has.

    Its only fishermen who can make unsubstantiated claims about a fishery and they call it "experience" rather than "opinion".

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    This is a good idea, even if I will suffer as I eat more fish than meat these days. In the long term it'll be worth it though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    127.ConnorMacLeod - "How much money did the government waste on this......."

    Am I missing something? I don't recall the article saying this study was tax payer funded?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    131. socomstu

    Number6 yes they are
    We are all Europeans now, Thank God!

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    economists...thinking about long term benefits!?

    Did someone hit them on their head

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    The problem is that Govts of EU countries & UK are involved.
    Govt officials in charge of protecting species don't take nearly as good care of them as would private owners, who would personally reap the gains from increasing the market value of the resource & would ensure they would serve their customers as efficient as possible. The same can't be said for Govt protectors of species (bureaucrats).

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Europe already heavily subsidises fishers. Extending this to 100% subsidy for 5 years would be an excellent idea.

    Then, once we have a decent fish stock again, fishing can recommence. It would be more profitable, as catches would be far larger, for less effort. Then subsidies can be eradicated completely, saving the tax payers money too.

    Where is the problem?

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Foreigners to over fish our waters for 30 years, buy up British rights to fish and generally wreck our proud fishing industry.
    That is a myth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Number6 yes they are

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    128. Britainsnotpleased
    Someone from an EU country is not a foreigner

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Easter Island, anyone? "I know, let's use all the trees!" "Great idea. Cut 'em down, people!"

    "Errrm...we've cut them all down, we've none left. What do we do now?"

    It's FISH, people: there are many alternatives to choose from which have good stock levels. I haven't bought cod for years for this exact reason. Break the supply/demand chain: make a difference! (Fish'n'chip shops, take note!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Foreigners to over fish our waters for 30 years, buy up British rights to fish and generally wreck our proud fishing industry. We now say it is time to allow the stocks to build up so that the foreigners will be able to over fish them again. This is just like the immigration issue , let them in and then just give them citzenship. Conservatives, Labour and LibDems you have destroyed our country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    How much money did the government waste on this bunch of muppets who finally reach the conclusion that by not catching fish, the numbers of fish in the sea will eventually increase ?

    Any idiot on the street could have told them the same thing for free...

    If the taxpayers money was spent more sensibly - this country wouldn't be in such a mess...

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    So basically those of you blaming it all on factory size trawlers from SPain et al are completely oblivious to the no. of vessels in the UK's fleet of exactly the same nature.....'s the factory trawlers that are the issue, not the nationality of owner/skipper/crew......

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Seeing the problem over a 50 year perspective provides an obvious solution.

    The EU messed up UK territorial waters and fishing industry and encouraged other member states to deplete what was historically a successful industry.

    Solution: Ban EU member states from fishing in problematic waters, return at least stock management in former UK waters to the UK fishing industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    9 Joseph_F .. "Grand idea europe, ruin your economy even more .. Way to keep me employed in the States.

    For a Country which is reaping rewards through backdoor with Iran whilst chasing Foriegn Banks and whose bankers started this economic decline, and for a whose residents caused Arabs to attack Other non US Embassys, and you whoop with glee.. INTEGRITY is not a word in the US Dictionary then?


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