Scientists confirm fish stocks increase

The sustained recovery of many fish stocks in the North-east Atlantic has been further confirmed by a new report by researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the University of Strathclyde.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) says this latest report underlines the responsible way that our fleet is harvesting fish stocks and the real commitment of fishermen to deliver a sustainable future.

The study – Reversal of Fish Stock Decline in the Northeast Atlantic - and published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 18, reveals that the status of our fish stocks is improving.

The researchers relied on data collected largely by government research institutes, including large programmes at hundreds of fish markets and at sea on hundreds of fishing and research vessels operating every day of the year.

These data were then analysed and integrated into mathematical stock assessment models and peer reviewed at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in Denmark, which recommends catch levels to the European Commission.

The researchers say they were especially surprised by the sheer number of stocks that have improved since fishing pressure was reduced at the turn of the century.

In 2011, for the first time, the majority of fish stocks were being fished sustainably.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said of the news: “I am delighted by this report. It confirms in a rigorous scientific way what our fishermen have telling us for some time - that the NE Atlantic fish stocks are increasing in size and are being harvested sustainably, with fishing pressure now at its lowest level in decades.

“Much of this has been achieved by the innovation of our fishermen in adopting a range of measures to reduce discards and to protect juvenile and spawning fish.

“All serious scientific analyses and commentary on NE Atlantic fish stocks are now pointing in the same direction.

“This will I hope be a refreshing insight for the public, fed until now largely on a diet of stories of negativity and decline.

“With fish stocks currently increasing and being fished at sustainable levels, it is now more important than ever that the correct management system is put in place to ensure that there is a viable fishing fleet in place to harvest this wonderful resource,” added Mr Armstrong.