'Profound' decline in fish stocks shown in UK records
Over-fishing means UK trawlers have to work 17 times as hard for the same fish catch as 120 years ago, a study shows.
Researchers used port records dating from the late 1800s, when mechanised boats were replacing sailing vessels.
In the journal Nature Communications, they say this implies "an extrordinary decline" in fish stocks and "profound" ecosystem changes.
Four times more fish were being landed in UK ports 100 years ago than today, and catches peaked in 1938.
Knock me down with a feather. You mean the Common Fisheries Policy hasn't helped us?
"Over a century of intensive trawl fishing has severely depleted UK seas of bottom living fish like halibut, turbot, haddock and plaice," said Simon Brockington, head of conservation at the Marine Conservation Society and one of the study's authors.
My goodness. But when they chucked in the CFP at the eleventh hour as we were to join the union, surely it was for our benfit?
Philip MacMullen, head of environmental responsibility at the UK's industry-funded sustainability organisation Seafish, suggested that accenting the historical picture could obscure more recent improvements.
"It could be correct but I don't know, and I don't think the data support the findings," he said.
Fish such as plaice have been fished further and further afield
"But it's old news. Fifteen years ago we started understanding how badly management was working, and 10 years ago we started doing something about it."
Wonderful doublethink: "Probably not true, but it's old news". Que?
Whereas UK fishermen tend to blame the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for their economic problems, the authors of this study say it proves that depletion stems from mismanagament well before the CFP came into existence.
"There's nothing basically wrong with the CFP and not much wrong with the scientific research they receive," commented Dr MacMullen.
Yes, what would the fishermen know? They only do it for a living. Whereas DOCTOR MacMullen, who is a doctor and therefore an expert and an authority - he knows.
Yes, there's nothing much wrong with the CFP. I can think of a couple of things though. Firstly, it has created a commons in the waters, hence its name. There is a term in economics known as the "tragedy of the commons." If everyone has the right to farm or fish a given area, it will be destroyed.
Secondly, once it became clear that this was exactly what was happeneing, the EU introduced quotas. These meant that fishermen had to throw back millions of dead fish back into the ocean, as they weren't allowed to take them to shore.
We live on an island in an area of formerly extreme maritime abundance. But we import most of our fish from overseas now. And it's mostly pretty expensive. Oysters were once a food of the poor.
Yes, there's nothing basically wrong with the CFP. There's everything wrong with it. Indeed, it's so twisted and profoundly wrong that it amounts to an act of war - against us the people, against the environment, against the life that was once in our seas, against common sense, and everything worth a damn. Bit like the EU.