WHILE local chippies continue to sell “Whitby” fish and chips, a new report suggests that the UK would have already run out of fish for the year if it didn’t import a huge amount from overseas.
Annual domestic fish stocks can satisfy demand for about 233 days a year, think tank the New Economics Foundation said.
This leaves the UK reliant on imported fish, such as haddock and cod, with at least one in three fish consumed in the UK imported from outside the EU.
A spokeswoman for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Overfishing has been a central failing of the current Common Fisheries Policy and the UK is adamant that the new CFP, which is currently under negotiation in Brussels, must ensure catches are set at a level that is sustainable. We will not be able to rebuild fish stocks without getting this right.”
However, sixth generation Whitby fisherman Richard Brewer, owner of Copious WY170, disputes the claim that there is not enough fish in British waters.
Fishermen are catching enough cod and haddock to satisfy the country’s needs, he said, but tight restrictions mean that the majority of it must be thrown back dead into the sea.
“I would totally dispute the statement that there isn’t enough fish. We have been dumping quality cod and haddock and we are told we are going to face more cuts next year. That means dumping more of the fish we are trying to conserve.”
The UK imports more than 101,000 tonnes of cod, worth £372m, and 60,000 tonnes of haddock, worth £156m, in a year, the majority of which comes from outside the EU, according to figures from 2010.
Mr Brewer (pictured insert) added: “We have to have imports because we can’t land the fish we require for this country. It’s the flawed police - we could actually have a major export trade but we are dumping it back dead into the sea. It’s a national disgrace, we’re destroying our natural resources.”
The NEF said demand could be met with better managed seas and ministers cited the UK’s call for sustainable fishing.
Ian Campbell, UK co-ordinator for Ocean2012, a coalition of organisations, said: “Fishing within sustainable levels and adapting fish consumption to available resources is the only way to regain healthy fishing grounds.”
With the fishing fleet decimated due to tight restrictions and the flawed Common Fisheries Policy, conservation plans have worked and stocks appear to be recovering, but at the expense of the UK’s fishing fleet. Therefore, the UK will continue to import fish for many years to come if it is to fulfill the nation’s appetite.