Aberdeen-based study reveals fish quotas grossly lower than stocks

UK boats are only being allowed to catch a small proportion of fish stocks in our waters.
UK boats are only being allowed to catch a small proportion of fish stocks in our waters.

Most UK fish quotas are tiny relative to the size of stocks in our waters, according to a major new report by university scientists.

The gap between the total allowable catch (TAC) and the volume of fish is up to six-fold.

A team from Aberdeen University’s School of Biological Sciences analysed the spatial distribution of 17 commercial fish stocks.

For all but three of those, UK quotas were significantly below stock levels within the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“The message of this report is very clear – the fish are abundant here in our waters, but our boats are entitled to catch only a small proportion of our own natural resource under the absurd Common Fisheries Policy,” said Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.

“Earlier work by Dr Ian Napier of the NAFC Marine Centre showed that we are forced to give away almost 60 per cent of the fish within our EEZ every year to other EU countries.

“Together these pieces of academic research – along with very clear legal advice – overwhelmingly support our case for restoring control of fisheries in the post-Brexit era.

“We have been making this case vigorously in the run up to Article 50 and will continue to do so as the detailed negotiations proceed. This is a sea of opportunity for the industry which we cannot and must not trade away for other priorities.”

Mr Armstrong added: “We will of course maintain our commitment to sustainable fisheries - the point here is that the balance of who gets what is all wrong.”

The Aberdeen University study compared the UK’s quota allocations with the estimated spatial percentage of the stocks over five years, based on independent data compiled for the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

For North Sea herring, the UK’s quota (share of the total allowable catch) is 15 per cent, while the average percentage of the stock in the UK EEZ is 88 per cent.

In the case of North Sea hake, it is 18 and 60 per cent respectively, and quotas for saithe, cod, whiting and haddock are all significantly lower than the percentage of those stocks in the North Sea.

For West of Scotland species, the hake quota is 18 per cent, while the stock is 79 per cent, and again quotas for saithe, cod, herring, whiting, haddock and monkfish are well below the level of those stocks. The mackerel quota is 13 per cent lower than the level of the species in our waters.

Only North Sea monkfish and Rockhall haddock quotas, among mature species, are higher than the stocks.