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 263.

    If the EU is so awful, why is Salmond busting a gut to get clearance for a possible entry?
    Let me know your reasoning.
    Regards, Tony

    Easy peasy

    He doesn't need the extra hassle of saying he doesn't want to be in Europe
    The Unionist establishment is pro euro too, so can say very little to criticise him

    You must slay one monster at a time, never conduct a war on two fronts at the same time etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    The ignorance displayed on here is astounding.

    As a rod and line fisherman who has studied fish conservation I can tell you there are just 2 reasons why fish stocks have depleted. The EU quota/discard policy and the use of nets made up of diamond shapes rather than square ones of regulated size to allow fry to escape.

    Study the subject before making inane comments about stopping all fishing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    What about subsidising the factories, processors, carriers, market places, management and admin personnel, small businesses and anyone else working within the fishing industry, that may not work on the vessels themselves, but rely on the work that only exists as a result of fishermen being at sea. Would the cost of supporting these people outweigh the potential long term return?

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    It is about time that we stop the destruction of the marine bed by British Trawlers! These irresponsible do not realize that through their methods they have depleted the stocks and destroyed the environment in which fish reproduce.

    Fishermen are a category who only take from the sea without giving anything back!

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    Get the UK out of the EU. Reclaim our waters, stop all fishing by foreign ships and make discards of edible fish illegal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    No I hungry and want fish. get more fish not less fish. I hungry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    here we go again... the UK agrees to no fishing only to see the Spanish raise two fingers to everyone and pilage the seas around our islands and beyond. It all sounds like another bit of EU bollo*ks

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    There is no need to freeze fishing.

    There is every need to cease discards by changing EU laws.

    We had plenty of fish before the EU took charge. Norway still has as they had the sense to keep out of this appalling "club".

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    Not sure about the timescales for recovery here. Fishing for cod on the Grand Banks was banned back in 1994 and so far stocks have recovered to only about 10% of the 1960s level. I think the EU needs to be more realistic, a 20 year timescale maybe..

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    I'm up for no more fish for a while so my kids can enjoy sustainable fishing in their lives.

    What has been presented is an ingenious plan from an impartial group who want to make sustainable jobs so seems sensible..
    The only challenge to their suggestion is not from other scientific or objective views but from an impartial group who will be affected.
    I do wish common sense will prevail here...

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    251.Over Population

    It's not a site pushing an agenda is it? You'll get me in trouble with the boss if it hits the firewall

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    The boldness of this proposal is almost beyond belief, essentially ban fishermen from earning a living , but instead pay them from an investment private (i.e. bank/hedge) fund to do nothing, then reclaim the money from the fishermen when they are permitted to go back to work , ie. as royalty on fish stocks, they have no other way of claiming ownership of in open waters. Utter scum.

  • Comment number 251.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 250.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    a partial ban on fishing let say 30 consecutive days every year,,, a ban or restiction on stocking fish.
    indians in America can't hunt buffalo anymore because of industrial greed,, let's not make this mistake on fishing,,,
    global market implies global disaster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Are these people deluded? If these proposals were to be enacted then there would undoubtedly be some notice period of a few years - a few years during which the fishermen would try to fish out every last fish in our seas. They would make a fortune selling black fish and then sit on their backsides for five years, with zero chance of a stock recovery, before retiring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.


    I already asked that but I didn't think of induced famine and disease I only came up with culling and forced sterilisation. Those are good ones!

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Our modern lifestyles mean we need 3 earths, over fishing is just one example of the damage we are doing. Will it change ?, NO, anything that involves sacrifice for the greater good is doomed to failure, especially with the generation of politicians we have now. Mitt Romney, D.Cameron, N.Clegg and others, hardly inspire hope for the future do they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    A few people talking about sustainable human population .

    well what will it be.
    Forced sterilisation.
    famine .

    I hear the black death did wonders for the survivors

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    That this is a subject is a disgrace.
    No industry escapes the ruination politics brings. Those that haven't yet been ruined are just waiting for it to happen.
    I wonder what it will take for some people to wake up to how those charged with providing stewardship have betrayed us and continue to do so, their wallets fattening with every infidelity.
    Stop voting for lies & manipulation.


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