NFFO claims the the “North Sea is teeming” with fish once more

In a Press Release dated 22nd July 2013, and titled “New Data Reveals North Sea Is Teeming”, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) says that there has been a dramatic recovery of fish species across the North East Atlantic which is “nothing short of remarkable”.

We provide here the full text of the NFFP Press Release:

“The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) – the country’s most influential body representing the UK fishing industry – has cited revolutionary partnership work between the fishing industry and scientists as helping bring about recovery levels in North East Atlantic fish stocks which are ‘nothing short of remarkable’. The findings which cover species including haddock, sole and herring follow recent reports that cod stocks in the North Sea are reaching sustainable levels.

“According to recent statistics release by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), there has been a ‘dramatic reduction in fishing pressure’ across the main commercial stocks in the North East Atlantic over the last decade, after some 70 years of incremental increases. In some stocks, including cod and haddock, mortality rates have been halved.

“The fall in fishing mortality levels is being seen as significant as it applies to all of the three main species groups; pelagicpelagic The ecological area consisting of the open sea away from the coast and the ocean bottom. The pelagic zone contains organisms such as surface seaweeds, many species of fish and sharks and some mammals, such as whales and dolphins. Pelagic animals may remain solely in the pelagic zone or may move among zones. (including herring and mackerel), demersaldemersal Living on the seabed (including cod, haddock and whiting) and benthic (flat fish including sole and plaice). The ICES statistics also show the trend applies right across the North East Atlantic, with white fish stocks – including those in the North Sea – rebuilding rapidly.

“The fall in fishing pressure coincides closely with the period an array of ‘cod recovery measures’ were applied to EU fleets, although the NFFO also cites a major, Government funded programme of partnership work between individual fishermen and scientists as having contributed to the shift. “Beginning in 2003/4, the publicly-supported Fisheries Science Partnership (FSP) has seen the fishing industry and science co-operate in a wide range of studies intended to improve the sea’s fish stocks, biomassbiomass The amount of living matter. This is therefore a different measure to numbers of organisms. So, for example, there is much more biomass in 1 elephant than there is in 1000 fleas and there may be more biomass in 100 large cod than you would find in 150 small (because of over fishing) cod. and marine ecosystems.

“Managed by Defra’s Centre of Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the NFFO, the research drive has harnessed fishermen’s generation-spanning knowledge and experience of fishing grounds, weather systems, fish biology and movements, with the exact methodical disciplines of marine scientists, investigating concerns and theories about the economic and environmental viability of commercial fishing.

“Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the NFFO, said: “The most recent ICES statistics are nothing short of remarkable and paint a long awaited, positive picture for both the UK’s fishing industry, as well as those of us who look to fish as a sustainable, traceable and healthy food source. Over the last decade, the relationship between fishermen and scientists has blossomed into a highly respected multi-project research programme, which has contributed greatly to corresponding decline in mortality across the main commercial fish stocks. Sustainability is now at the heart of the way the fishing industry operates and these figures are a major endorsement of the way practices have changed over the last ten years. There are some stocks yet to respond but the dominant downward trend is too well established, too wide in geographical terms and across too many fisheries to be dismissed as a blip.”

“According to the most recent figures available, in 2011, the UK’s 6,4441 fishing vessels landed 600,000 tonnes of fish (including shellfish) with a value of £828 million2. There are around 12,400 fishermen, with the industry providing 14,331 full time jobs.

“Fish consumption has risen steadily since the 1970s with four out of five households in the UK eating seafood at least once a month4. The NFFO estimates the fishing industry has provided the basis for 200 trillion meals since the end of the Second World War.

“Arnold Locker is a third generation fisherman. He has over 40 years’ experience of commercial fishing and is co-owner and chairman of Lockers Trawlers Ltd, which now trawls haddock predominantly, after taking the decision to avoid cod to support its recovery. Arnold was among the first fishermen to join scientific missions on Cefas’ purpose-built, £25m ocean-going research vessel the Cefas Endeavour, for 30-day trawls to compare catch rates with different gear. He then accompanied the Endeavour , while one of his own vessels fished alongside, trialling and then adopting various cod avoidance techniques including larger net sizes, various mesh grades and net panelling. The result has been that his boats now can now avoid cod, with a discard rate of less than one per cent, verified by on-board CCTV.

“He said: “In the past, Scientists didn’t speak to fishermen and fishermen didn’t speak to scientists. Clearly, this was ridiculous, as both were needed for meaningful projects that would preserve the marine environment and improve its health where there were problems. Most UK fisherman are hard working, honest individuals, often running family businesses and who, like me, want to secure a legacy for future generations. Over the last 10 years we’ve worked hard to do this and at last, it’s starting to pay dividends in both the quality and quantity of the fish we’re catching.”


For further information contact Ellie Smith or Jack Williams at the NFFO Press Office on 0845 4567251 / email hidden; JavaScript is required / email hidden; JavaScript is required

Source: NFFO Press Release, 22nd July 2013

Marinet observes: Marinet has written to the NFFO, 9th August 2013, and to ICES, 9th August 2013 in order to establish further facts about the claims and statements made in the NFFO press release of 22nd July 2013. Marinet also observes that whilst fish stocks may be recovering — although the strength of recovery remains a debatable point — the key issue is how far must stocks recover before it becomes sensible to extensively fish them again? Fish stocks in UK seas can only feed us for six months of each year now because populations are so depleted, and we have to rely on fish imported from other seas to fill the remaining six months of the year. We contend that fish stocks in UK seas will not have recovered adequately until they are large enough to feed us for all 12 months of the year at least — the definition of “food security” — and preferably they should be allowed to recover beyond this level so as to guarantee their abundance in an uncertain future for our seas due to climate change and, of course, to give our fishing industry the chance to seriously export British fish once more, an experience it has not known for a very long time.

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