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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 12:27 GMT
How can the UK's fishing stocks be preserved?
Cod on the deck of a fishing boat
Fishing should be banned in almost one third of UK waters to protect the long-term future of the industry, according to a Royal Commission report.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) warns that continuing with piecemeal adjustments will leave the fishing industry with little future.

Sir Tom Blundell, chairman of the RCEP, said the presumption in favour of fishing should be reversed. He added that the sea needed to be treated in the same way as endangered land habitats.

Do you agree with the Royal Commission's proposals? What is the best way to preserve Britain's fishing stocks? How will the proposals affect you?


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

SUGGEST A DEBATE
This topic was suggested by Brian, England:
In the light of the fishing stock report, is it time we started to take meaningful, effective action to safeguard our environment and natural resources?

The UK has been over-fishing the seas for decades. Scientists and the general public have understood this for a long time. The Fishing community, however, refuses to accept the recommendations of an independent review.

This parallels with the US ignoring CO2 and Kyoto, and the chemicals industry ignoring a European report. Everyone has vested interest, but corporations exist to make money today, now, not help sustain the world we live in. We have independent reviews for a reason. If industry will not listen, force them to. Governments need to get serious on the environment - every time a report says the environment is deteriorating faster than many had thought, and the government commissions a report to review the report. Corporations and government will only listen to the results they want to hear.
Steve, Leamington Spa, UK

Twenty years ago, when working for the Fishery Protection, I saw fishing boats that had caught their 'quota' in a bonanza fishing area catch another purse net full of fish to place on deck and sell to any other boat that had not completed its quota. If no other buyer could be found the full net, probably weighing many tons was dumped overboard before entering harbour. My sympathy goes out to those who have lost livelihoods but to say that a ban, such as was endured in eastern Canada, is merely political manoeuvring is a disgrace.
Ian, UK

You ask how the UK can preserve its fishing stocks? Simple, stop eating them! There would be no need for trawlers to catch them anymore then, would there?
Dave Harding, Abingdon, England, UK

As many other Canadians have posted, I urge your government to implement a complete ban on fishing before it's too late. People must also take responsibility for their own action and stop consuming fish. A few years ago, I saw the damage caused by my consumption and became a vegetarian.
Gilles Fecteau, Toronto, Canada

If the resolve had existed, concerted, corrective action could have started 25 years ago, on all fisheries, worldwide. Unless there is a massive, and rapid, reduction in all fisheries, along with a paradigm shift on how fish are caught, then in less than 25 years time the only thing we will be taking from the sea will be plankton.
Allister McLeod, Masterton, New Zealand

So far, when ever fish levels drop, the only action that has ever allowed fish stocks to recover has been complete bans on fishing of all species of fish. Banning one type of fish or another doesn't stop the trawlers from scooping up those banned creatures, it only means they get dumped dead back into the sea. By banning all fishing, it allows not just the desirable fish to recover, but also the complete food chain to recover. Even then, it may be too late for some species, as their minimum sustainable levels may have already been passed.
Richard Way, Luton, UK

Their quota system has clearly failed
Andy D, Oxford UK
What does it matter what the Royal Commission recommends? Control of our fishing grounds was long since surrendered to Brussels. Their quota system has clearly failed and is subject to systematic abuse. Welcome to the benefits of EU membership and lack of national sovereignty!
Andy D, Oxford UK

I really do not care if the fishermen lose their jobs, their greed has caused the problem in the first place.
Ruth Helm, Walsall UK

If consumers refuse to buy threatened species such as cod, monkfish, skate and swordfish, the fishing industry will have to respond.
Jackie Carey, Malvern, UK

The Canadian fishing industry, once one of the largest in the world, has been destroyed because of over fishing using industrial techniques that are clearly unsustainable. The answer is not to stop fishing but to ban those operations that dredge everything from the sea.
Clive Holloway, Toronto, Canada

A simple solution: a European law that decrees that a person may only eat fish that has been caught on a rod. That way, any local fishermen can continue to make a living by taking people out on their boats, or chartering them to groups.
Dan, Uppsala, Sweden

It seems incredible that the fishing industry can be so shortsighted
Ant Martin, Torbay
It seems incredible that the fishing industry can be so shortsighted and not learn from their own mistakes. Likewise the people that seem to think these are 'our' fish to do with as they like. Living by the sea, I can vouch for the reduction in the mackerel stock. They used to be a regular feature of my boyhood summers when they shoaled close to shore. A sight I have not seen for many years.
Ant Martin, Torbay

Given the current policy on bans, I suppose a ban on fish and chip shops is next. The real problem, like so much else, is not depopulation of the fish but overpopulation amongst humans. If we're going to cut back on anything how about the human population?
Trish Wilson, London, UK

Stop trying to protect those poor fisherman and fishing communities from seeing the truth. Just because you did something in the past, doesn't make it good now. Fisherman have to wake up to the fact there isn't enough fish in the sea. Therefore we should help these communities adapt to the modern world. Perhaps encouraging fish farms.
Jeffrey Lake, London, UK

Stop fish farming. It is a fact that in order to produce 1 ton of farmed fish, 12 ton of wild fish must be caught. The fish that form the basis of farmed fish's diet are mainly sand eels . They also form the diet of sea birds and sea bird colonies are starving from lack of food.
Alec Macleod, Scotland

We plundered the seas 40 years ago and now we're paying the price
Barry O, Stone, UK
I lived in Hull for much of my earlier life when the city was the biggest fishing port in the UK. I can remember seeing massive catches of cod and haddock being landed with a significant portion of the catch going for fish manure as its size was deemed too small for the fishmonger. We plundered the seas 40 years ago and now we're paying the price. The small fish that once was converted into manure is now the fare on the fishmongers' slabs.
Barry O, Stone, UK

In my view, Edward Heath destroyed the British Fishing Industry when he signed the UK up for the Common Fisheries Policy in order to join the Common Market. We should come out of the CFP and declare a 200 mile limit where possible around our shores and exclude the other EU fishing fleets. Iceland and Norway did this with great success. There does not appear to be a problem in their waters.
Robert Lough, Hull, East Yorks

Get out of the EU and use a minute proportion of the billions we put into it every year to compensate the UK fishing fleets until the fishing grounds have recovered. After a recovery period, drop the compensation and then initiate a real and sustainable fishing policy for the UK's much reduced fishing fleets. This would be sensible so will probably never happen.
Derek S, UK

Having lived in Canada until 10 years ago I find this debate brings back some very bad memories. There is still no commercial cod fishery off Newfoundland after almost 10 years of closure. Reports such as the current UK one (and this not the first one) were produced by Fisheries Canada and ignored by all governments (including those of the European Union) during the 1980's. My prediction is that this UK report will be effectively ignored and another one will be produced in about two years reporting that the stocks are in even dire shape. If the Newfoundland example is followed then real action will only be taken when there are no fish left to save.
Kevin Reilly, Leeds

As someone who spends a lot of time at sea sailing and diving, it is obvious that the fishing industry is destroying our sea. It needs to be regulated, restricted and excluded from large areas of our coastal waters and seas to allow regeneration before it is too late. Many once common species are now rare in our waters - herring, tuna, cod, skate, sharks, salmon, sea trout. What will be next?
Douglas Potter, Livingston

Unfortunately this seems to be another case of the human race consuming limited resources too quickly, in a short-sighted manner. It would be nice if we had a government who would actually take a long term view, and make some tough decisions to safeguard our future. Somehow I doubt it will happen though as everything revolves around money.
Brian, Newbury, Berks

I am saddened that this debate has become an excuse to beat up the EU. Listening to Sir Tom Blundell this morning, the EU was not an issue. The issue is a global problem with overfishing and we need to be part of the solution not the problem. Whining on about whose fault it is won't stop a catastrophe in fishing stocks, taking action will.
Katherine, London, UK

Future generations will find it unbelievable that we kept harvesting wildlife from the oceans for so long
Gillian, Miami, Florida
Fish farming is the only sustainable option for the future of our oceans. Seafood is the only wild harvest that we humans still depend on - fruits, vegetables, poultry and livestock are all farmed. Future generations will find it unbelievable that we kept harvesting wildlife from the oceans for so long.
Gillian, Miami, Florida (previously UK)

In Canada, we have heard all the problems, reasons and excuses before. By 1992 the fishing industry on the east coast of Canada had collapsed and remains so today. The only recourse is a complete ban on fishing whilst monitoring the stock levels and hope they will improve sooner rather than later.
Richard Bentley, Port Moody, BC Canada/ ex-UK

Stop buying and eating so much fish and let market forces control the amount of fishing that is required.
Ian, UK

The sea belongs to everyone and no one and therefore no one believes it's their responsibility to maintain it properly. This is a crisis of disaster proportions and if a moratorium on fishing is needed then the industry only has itself to blame.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK

Intensive fishing, like its cousin intensive farming, simply exploits animals and nature to destruction. It is perfectly possible to live a healthy life on a vegetarian diet and at the same time spare the land and the seas from pollution and destruction. I have lived for years like this. I know it's controversial (although I don't understand why) but right there is the answer not only to the fishing problem, but also the problem of feeding the world, saving water, and cutting out a great deal of pollution. Anyone who doubts my claim can join me in my next half marathon!
Pete, Mqabba, Malta

I foresee that the usual individuals that vacuum the sea and don't care about the stocks will carry on doing it
Paul McDermott, London
I agree with the proposals completely. Having been a Harbour Enforcement officer at a fishing port however, I foresee that the usual individuals that vacuum the sea and don't care about the stocks will carry on doing it and the ones that do care will carry on being made to look like fools. Unless strong enforcement via an increased numbers of fishery protection officers and vessels is allowed for, then any sensible concepts like this will always be doomed to fail.
Paul McDermott, London

The best way for us to preserve our fish stocks is to withdraw asap from the Common Fisheries Policy of the EU and police thereafter foreign trawlers over-fishing our waters. I believe our own fishermen are following the regulations to the letter but trawlers from within the EU and Russia are scooping the seas around our small island without care or concern.
Ron Irvine, London

My only concern would be whether banning fishing from a third of UK waters would be too little too late. Whatever happens it needs to be rigidly enforced NOW. Whilst having sympathy with the fishermen it's obvious that no fish equals no fishermen!
Stephen, Lancs

This report may come as a shock to some people. However marine scientists like myself who monitor these fisheries and meet every year in ICES (the International Council for the exploration of the Sea) workshops have been recommending a drastic reduction in commercial fishing practices in UK waters from European vessels (especially deep-water fishing) since the mid 1990s. Although a cut in hours fished at sea is possibly the only way of saving some fish species, for some deep-water stocks it may be too little too late. The blame for stocks collapsing lie firmly at the foot of the fisheries ministers who meet in Brussels.
Paul Crozier, Liverpool, UK

This is yet another example of the benefits of EU membership. Iceland had a better idea, with its 200 mile Iceland only fishing limit. The situation is not helped by decades of government policy which allowed the sea to be used as rubbish dump and open sewer.
N.J., Cambridge, England

Deja-vu anyone? - A report pointing out the disastrous decline in fish stocks - A leader of fishermen claiming we are not over fishing now - A ministry that will do nothing - An EU that will bleat on about 'equal access' and compromise fishing policy It is Christmas so I suppose we ought to have hope, but ten years of history tells us politicians, the EU and our own, will do nothing until it is too late.
Dave, Derbysire

What's more important here - the livelihood of a tiny percentage of the workforce, or potentially permanent damage to the ecosystem of the North Sea? I know which I would choose to sacrifice.
Steve Powell, Newbury, UK

This will make more Scottish fisherman redundant with the large European fleet reaping the benefits.
Douglas Hynd, Lochgelly, Fife

Every year scientists advise the government on how many fish of each species may be caught in order to maintain current stocks. For decades this advice has been ignored, and the catch allowance has been raised, due to pressure from trawlermen. We are now seeing the result of this. If this trend continues, we will have economic extinction of certain species, as has happened in Canada.
Mark Edmonds, Rugby, England

If we assert our fishing rights in our own waters for our own fishermen only, and go along with these proposals, then we will reap a bonanza in six years time. WWII proved that even desperately low stocks can replenish in that period.
David S, Cambridge UK

As a child we read in geography books that the Dogger Bank in the North Sea was full of herring and fished by drifters. My uncle had such a fleet but over fishing just after the war cleared out all the herring and the stocks have never recovered. Trawlers do much more environmental damage than drifters ever did. The fishing industry should take its head out of the sand, think to the future and accept reality.
Roger Smith, Leicester

I live just outside a fishing port, and it has already suffered. We must be mad, using our taxes to pay our own fishermen to put themselves out of work (and all the processors, boat builders etc who won't get compensation) while also paying tax to the EU who allow the Irish to subsidise new boats, and let the French and Spanish, the Danish et al fish our waters out. If the boot was on the other foot, do you really think the French or Spanish would let us fish there?
Scott, Berwickshire

Why not ban large fishing trawlers and stipulate the maximum size of a net? This way, less fish will caught and stocks will be given the chance to replenish.
Lisa, London

I agree but in addition there needs to be a worldwide approach to managing the seas.
Andrew Pace, Herefordshire

The best way to preserve fishing stocks is to create sanctuaries
Jos, Huizen, NL
I agree. The best way to preserve fishing stocks is to create sanctuaries and ban industrial fishing methods where half of the catch is thrown back into the sea dead, anywhere. The problem isn't the EU, it's the might of the fishing lobby, that always says there's plenty of fish, or they have just installed new and environment friendly techniques.
Jos, Huizen, NL

I live right on the coast and gave up fishing because miles of gill nets and trawlers coming right up to the rock ends ensure that hardly any fish reach beach. Many countries have discovered that recreational angling makes more money than commercial, why can't this one?
Andrew Lackenby, Hartlepool

A review of fishing practices may be a step forward. Fish only in specified areas to allow others to flourish
Tony Moody, Plymouth, UK

The reality can be seen in the size and price of fish in the UK. It's clear that if something radical isn't done then there will be no fish for anybody.
Bill, Great Dunmow

Keep British waters for British fishermen. That would be a good start.
Bob Hotson, Lancs

Perhaps if the EU didn't let the Spanish sail into our waters and pinch all our fish when our own trawlers are not allowed out to fish, this crisis wouldn't have happened. It seems incredible that an island nation can have its fishing industry virtually wiped out by bureaucracy, whereas other countries seem to be able to fish with impunity.
Jo, UK

The fishing industry can build proper fish farms where fish are bred for food. Ban fishing with nets in all rivers, lakes and even the sea.
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