BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Business
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Market Data 
Your Money 
Business Basics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Tuesday, 6 June, 2000, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Fishermen's tales of woe
Low fish stocks have reduced catches
Low fish stocks have reduced catches
by BBC Working Lunch's Ian Jolly

UK fishermen are being forced to look for other ways of making a living because of a dramatic collapse in fish stocks.

Some are making so little money they find it hard to recruit crews. Others are spending large amounts of cash converting their trawlers to look for whelks and shrimps.

The North Sea is almost fished out
The North Sea is almost fished out
The decline in white fish - notably cod - is particularly bad in the North Sea, where the decline in fish stocks has been dramatic.

Fisherman say there are a number of causes:

  • Climate changes which mean cod no longer need to leave the waters around Iceland to spawn

  • A big increase in the number of seals, which can eat their own weight in fish in a day

  • Growing activity by companies looking for oil and gravel, which can disperse fish or alter their behaviour.

Fishermen on the Yorkshire coast have been calling for a seal cull. They say the numbers are growing by about 6% a year, and they want the government to take action.

However, conservationists argue that seals are not to blame, and that culling them would damage the eco-system in the area.

"No fish, no pay"

Trawler owner Fred Normandale, who operates out of Scarborough, says he has never known things so bad. Crews are paid with a share of the profits, but because catches are so low, fishermen find they can earn more in jobs onshore.

Fishermen can earn more wokring onshore
Fishermen can earn more wokring onshore
As a result, boats are stuck in harbour waiting until they can get a full complement of workers.

"If a vessel goes to sea, whatever it catches after expenses, the balance is shared between boat and crew. When there is no fish there is no pay," he told the BBC.

Quota problems

This comes on top of the problems faced by UK fishermen because of a cut by the European Union in the quota of fish they are allowed to catch. As a result, fisherman say they are working harder than ever just to stand still.

People are eating less fish
People are eating less fish
"We can't afford to tie our boats up. In fact our lads are working harder just trying to catch up. It's a no win situation," says Mr Normandale.

But some conservationists say politicians have contributed to the current fish shortage, by allowing overfishing. Subsidies and cash handouts have helped increase the world┐s industrial fishing fleet by more than one fifth in the past decade.

In recent years, efforts have been made by all players in the fishing industry to work together. The Yorkshire Coast Fishing Forum encompasses Scarborough, Whitby and Bridlington. It is trying to promote the industry through events such as a seafood and fishing festival to be held in Scarborough in September.

But former forum chairman James McCarthy admits that there is little the organisation can do about the present crisis.

Some are now concerned it could have a long-term impact in the region, even having a knock-on effect on associated businesses.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories