Scientists admit ‘we got amount of fish wrong’

North Sea fish numbers are on the rise
North Sea fish numbers are on the rise

With scientists admitting they got the amount of fish in the North Sea and surrounding waters wrong, one Whitby fisherman has said: “Now give us our quota back.”

The International Council for Exploration of the Sea’s most recent advice has confirmed that fishing pressure across the main commercial stocks has in fact fallen to a remarkable degree.

Arnold Locker, president of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisation, said now the scientists have admitted the got the science “wrong” since 2002, the industry should be rewarded with a “big lift in quotas”. He added: “It is brilliant news. What they are saying is the fishing pressure isn’t a problem any more. In particular, the commercial fish such as cod, haddock and whiting, which is the fish we catch.”

Numbers released by ICES illustrate how after 70 years of falling fish biomass, the trends after the year 2000 have taken a dramatic increase. This coincides closely with the period during which an array of ‘cod recovery’ measures were applied to EU fleets.

The research shows that North Sea cod, the staple of Whitby’s fish and chip shops, has steadily rebuilt towards safe biological levels and a spokesperson for the NFFO added: “The recovery of some stocks like North Sea plaice is nothing short of breathtaking, with a biomass beyond anything seen within the historical record.”

The spokesperson added: “One telling point in the scientists’ advice puts paid to a number of claims of celebrity chefs and journalists that their own heroic efforts have turned a catastrophic situation around. By the time that Johnny-Come-Latelys such as Hugh’s Fish Fight turned their attention to fishing, the trends were well established.”

Potentional causes for the biomass recovery are fleet reductions, tradable quota, increased selectivity, landing controls, an altered industry mindset and cod avoidance. Mr Locker added: “If that’s the case, you get certain people called Greenpeace saying there’s no fish in the sea. Well, what are they going to do now, are they going to say sorry?”

A recently-discovered threat to recovery is cross-species cannibalisation, and Mr Locker added: “It’s completely altered our way of thinking, or it’s going to have to. But it’s early days yet.”