Do you Know about?

Fisherman have to work 17 times harder to catch fish than they did in the 19th century

Article appeared on

Marine scientists have discovered that despite modern trawlers being 50 times more effective than their sailing equivalents in the 19th century, they only catch a third more fish.

Stocks of some varieties of fish such as halibut are so decimated that it takes 500 times as much effort to pull them from the sea as it did in 1889.

Britain's fleet of trawlers – mostly powered by sail – netted 300,000 tons a year in the 1880s compared with 150,000 tons now.

The fishing fleet in England and Wales was much larger then but each vessel still netted 80 tons of fish a year. This compares with 110 tons on average per boat now despite advances in technology and far more powerful boats.

The "dramatic" and "worrying" drop is due to extreme and aggressive overfishing and researchers from York University said the problem is "far more profound" then previously thought.

Ruth Thurstan, lead researcher from the university's Environment Department, said: "Fishermen have to work 17 times harder than a 100 years ago to get the equivalent catch.

"And this is despite more powerful boats, more durable and wider nets, freezing facilities – technology that is far more sophisticated than in the last century.

"Now UK fishing trawlers are bringing in about 150,000 tonnes a year, compared to double that 100 years ago.

"The availability of certain bottom living fish like halibut, turbot, haddock and plaice has also dropped by 94 per cent.

"We were astonished to discover that we landed over four times more fish into England and Wales in 1889 than we do today.

"For all its technological sophistication and raw power, today's trawl fishing fleet has far less success than its sail-powered equivalent of the late 19th century because of the sharp declines in fish abundance."

The researchers, who also worked with the Marine Conservation Society used UK Government data on the amount of fish caught and the size and number of boats involved – the fleet's fishing power – to analyse the change in fish stocks since 1889.

The findings suggest that the damage to fisheries is greater and has taken place over a much longer period than previously thought

Professor Callum Roberts, co-author, said: "This research makes clear that the state of UK bottom fisheries – and by implication European fisheries, since the fishing grounds are shared – is far worse than even the most pessimistic of assessments currently in circulation.

"We need to build up stocks so that we can take more sustainable fish, more easily from the sea. Fish stocks are a bit like bank accounts. The more money you have in the bank the more interest you get from it."

The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

No comments: