Fish stocks ARE healthy maintain skippers

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A FACEBOOK page set up by local skippers aimed at scotching claims that fish stocks are scarce has received more than 4,000 likes since its inception.

The pressure group The Real Fish Fight has been set up by Peterhead skipper Peter Bruce along with fellow skippers who claim there are plenty fish in the sea.

Skipper Bruce of the Budding Rose, highlighted the cause only last week when a monster haul of cod broke the winch on his trawler.

He said: “I have never seen a catch like this in all my 30 years at sea.

“The boat’s ram was completely bent out of shape by the weight of the catch - so much so it has had to be removed for repairs to be carried out.”

And he believes that the gigantic haul would help prove that there was no cod shortage in the North Sea.

The haul of cod was taken in waters around 20 miles from closed cod spawning grounds, with Skipper Bruce saying he was actually fishing for haddock at the time.

“I was in contact with a fellow skipper who was 75 miles away and he was having a similar experience,” he said.

“He had to land ten tonnes of cod to Peterhead Fishmarket from his trip!”

Skipper Bruce said the Real Fish Fight had been launched to convince people that North Sea stocks were not dwindling and these latest catches were proof of that.

And he said that the stocks’ recovery was down to conservation efforts implemented by Scottish fishermen.

The campaign follows criticism of chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Channel 4 series ‘Hugh’s Fish Fight’.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has backed the claims, stating: “ Reports from Scottish fishermen of a huge abundance of cod in the North Sea is a direct result of a dramatic decline in fishing effort combined with the introduction of a number of conservation initiatives by the fishing fleet.

“The scientific evidence is also backing the experience of fishermen on the fishing grounds.

“According to Scottish Sea Fisheries Statistics, the amount of fishing effort by the Scottish fleet has declined by a massive 70% between 2000 and 2011.

SFF chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, said: “The number of fishing vessels has dramatically declined and there have been strict effort controls.

“In addition, we have developed our own measures such as technical alterations to nets to significantly reduce discards and implementing real-time area closures to protect juvenile and spawning fish.

“The important step now is to ensure that fishermen are rewarded for this increasing stock of cod and other fish through enhanced catching opportunities in the future. Survival of the fishing communities will depend on this.

“However, this must be achieved through careful fisheries management based on the science so as to ensure the continuation of sustainable harvesting that enables the stock to prosper.”