Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, states that “the majority of fish stocks of interest to Scottish fishermen are increasing – in some cases by substantial amounts” (Letters, 28 May). He also claims this increase in stocks is down to many factors, including conservation measures by the fishing industry.
He got closer to the real situation when he said fish stocks in the Clyde estuary “are recovering”. That is the central fact of the matter. Some fish stocks are increasing, in so much as they are slowly recovering from decades of legal and illegal commercial over-fishing. Some stocks were exploited to the edge of viable extinction and, as a result, fishing effort for those species collapsed.
It is thought that the Clyde had unique sub-species of cod that trawlers all but wiped out. In the 1960s and 1970s, anglers travelled to the Clyde fairly confident of catching 20-30lb cod. Today, catching a 10lb fish off the Gantocks almost guarantees an angler being photographed for the sea fishing magazines.
Mr Armstrong also stated that “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”. It is wrong to try to compare the situation in the North Sea with that of the Clyde estuary. These are totally different environments.
I would also urge against describing any fish stocks as “increasing” or “sustainable”. While some stocks are recovering from over-exploitation, there is no firm evidence that any are going to be sustainable in the long term.
John F Robins
Save Our Seals Fund