Fish facts

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Your report (27 May) on a study by the University of York on the Clyde prawn fishery highlights the rather simplistic assertions made by the researchers, who also fail to recognise the real science with regards to our fisheries.

The report is overly-dramatic advocacy dressed up as science. The real science is outlined by the latest advice from the definitive fisheries body, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, which reveals that fishing pressure throughout the north-east Atlantic – an area that includes the Firth of Clyde – is at its lowest levels in decades.

This same advice also reveals that the majority of fish stocks of interest to Scottish fishermen are increasing – in some cases by substantial amounts. This fall in fishing pressure and subsequent increase in stocks is the result of a variety of factors, including long-term management plans for fisheries and fishermen adopting innovative conservation measures, such as technical alterations to nets to release juvenile fish and real-time area closures to protect spawning areas.

A more accurate picture of the state of our fisheries in the Firth of Clyde is contained in a Marine Scotland Science report published last year, which revealed that the total weight of whitefish in the Firth of Clyde is now twice as great as in the 1930s, before trawler fishing in the latter half of the last century became commonplace – albeit there are many more smaller fish present at the moment.

In addition, the report reveals that from 1995 to 2004 just four fish species made up 95 per cent of the biomass of Clyde demersal fish, whereas in 2005-9 this had increased to eight – indicating further that recovery is real and that an enhanced overall eco-
system balance is happening.

As well as numerous other restrictions, our fishing fleet is also severely constrained by the number of fishing days it can put to sea. In the case of the Clyde, this is now at such a low level that the fishing fleet there is struggling – under the regulation rather than the availability of catch – for its very survival. For some to suggest to even further lower fishing intensity in the Clyde is madness as it would effectively wipe out the area’s small-scale fishing fleet at the very time when stocks are recovering.

Furthermore, successful prawn and whitefish fisheries are entirely compatible, as is shown in the North Sea where stocks of key species such as haddock and cod are increasing alongside a sustainable prawn fishery.

Bertie Armstrong

Chief executive, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation