This was underlined in a recent report by NAFC Marine Centre in Shetland which revealed that the abundance of most of the main species caught by Scottish fishermen has increased over the last five or six years.
The report by the Centre’s Fisheries Policy Section (available online at www.nafc.ac.uk/Fisheries-Policy-Notes.aspx) collated and summarised information published by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).
As well as the good news on cod, the report revealed that 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. At the same time, the fishing pressure (mortality) has also fallen sharply.
This positive news on fish stock levels was also reflected recently in the latest scientific advice on North Sea herring from ICES, which has confirmed that the stock continues to be harvested in a sustainable way with fishing pressure below the recommended level. And only last week, the EC announced that there are now 25 stocks in European seas which are known not to be overfished, compared to only two stocks in 2005.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF, said: “The majority of our fish stocks in the north-east Atlantic are increasing in size due in large part to the sustainable fishing practices of our fishing fleet. It should not be forgotten that our fishermen have made considerable sacrifices to reach this stage, including a considerable downsizing of the fleet and the adoption of innovative conservation measures such as technical alterations to nets and real time area closures to protect spawning fish.
“Hopefully, the enhanced regional control powers that will be at the heart of the new Common Fisheries Policy will enable much improved fisheries management in the future, which will achieve the balance of a viable fishing industry and healthy fish stocks. Our seas provide a vitally important and renewable food resource, which means that measures to protect the fishing industry to ensure the continuing supply of sustainably caught seafood must always be the priority of our national governments and the EC.”