Aquaculture for all

Good News for Scottish Fishermen as Fish Stocks Increase

Sustainability Education & academia +2 more

SCOTLAND, UK - The abundance of most of the main species of fish caught by Scottish fishermen has increased over the last five or six years. That is one of the findings in a new report released by the NAFC Marine Centres Department of Marine Science and Technology.

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The report by the Centre’s Fisheries Policy Section (available online at has collated and summarised information published by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas.

The report found that while stocks of some species had declined in the past, most had seen substantial increases over the last few years. At the same time, the fishing mortality rate for most stocks - that is the proportion of the fish that are caught each year - has fallen sharply. For example, the stock of North Sea cod more than doubled in size between 2006 and 2012 while its fishing mortality rate fell by 43 per cent between 2000 and 2011. In fact the fishing mortality rate for North Sea cod was lower in 2012 than in any year since 1966.

Stocks of some other species have increased to unprecedented levels: the plaice stock in the North Sea for example was larger in 2012 than at any time since at least 1960, having tripled in size since 2004. The stock of hake more than quadrupled in size between 2006 and 2011.

Report author Dr Ian Napier, commented: “Two things are evident from this data. Firstly, while some stocks declined in size prior to the mid 2000s, most have increased in size - often substantially - since then. Secondly, fishing mortality rates have declined substantially over the last decade. An interesting point is that the combined size all the whitefish stocks around Scotland has remained at a fairly constant size over the last two decades, despite substantial fluctuations in individual species.”

Chairman of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, Leslie Tait, welcomed the publication of the report: “These figures clearly show that far from being in a state of crisis, Scottish fish stocks are in a far healthier state than is often portrayed. This has been achieved through the innovations and substantial sacrifices made by Shetland and Scottish fishermen. We hope that everyone will recognise what has been achieved over the last decade. These figures show that consumers can have confidence in eating Scottish fish as a healthy and sustainable part of their diet.”

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: “This report underlines the very real and tangible fish stock recovery that is now occurring around our coasts. It also highlights the dramatic reduction in the amount of fish that are being taken out of the sea.

“It should not be forgotten that this has been achieved at considerable cost to the industry, with the whitefish fleet alone having shrunk significantly since 2000. In addition, our fishermen have adopted a whole range of conservation initiatives, including technical innovations to trawls to reduce discards and the real time area fishing closures to protect spawning and juvenile stocks.

“At a time when there is much alarmist and sensationalist misinformation about the state of our fish stocks, this report gives the true story of recovering seas and much reduced fishing effort. It will also give the public the reassurance that they can purchase Scottish seafood safe in the knowledge that it is being sustainably harvested under the careful stewardship of our hardworking fishermen.”

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