Whitby fish fears Published: 17 November, 2006
FEARS are growing among Whitby fishermen that their cod quotas could run out at any time and they are calling on the Government and the European Union to radically change their policies.
The concerns have been expressed by Dave Winspear, managing director of Whitby’s Alliance Fish, who said current measures mean fish caught accidentally will have to be thrown overboard because his members are not allowed to land them.
But there is little likelihood that their pleas will be heard in Whitehall circles. The last few weeks have seen several warnings about the state of fish stocks around the UK coastline and the Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw has stated publicy that action must be taken to preserve stocks.
However, he has come out against a total cod ban as expounded by scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas who argue it is the only way to prevent the complete extinction of the fishery.
But conversely industry experts are reporting a marked increase in the numbers of fish being caught in the North Sea during the past 12 months.
The Grimsby based East of England Fish Producers Organisation has argued against further cod measure for the past two or three years, saying its members have reported big increases in catches this year, including cod.
Jim Linstead, chairman of the FPO said cod stocks are particularly healthy and are being caught in numbers not seen for some time.
Dave Winspear, of Alliance Fish, told his local paper, The Whitby Gazette recently: “The evidence is there. These last couple of months, we’ve had a remarkably healthy showing of cod.” Even boats that were potting were catching some cod.
But he said the encouraging upsurge would not benefit local fishermen. “The UK cod quota, at the uptake levels that we’ve had, is projected to expire very shortly,” he warned. “Even if cod is caught by accident, for example by boats trawling for prawns, that catch cannot be retained.”
He added: “We have to throw them back. They are not allowed to retain them on the boat it’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s polluting the sea.”
He also expressed worries that the situation is not being adequately monitored. He said fishermen are not allowed to log details of their catches of cod skewing figures that record fish stock levels.
Mr Linstead added: “Vessels targeting cod are reporting some of the largest cod ever caught two individual fish per 50 kilogram box were recently landed in Holland.
“It is not just a regional increase on the East Coast of England. Fishermen from the Thames to Shetland are reporting abundant codling, the Scots are reporting lots of very small haddock in the water and whiting is strong in the North Sea.”
Earlier this year worried fishermen from Whitby urged the Government to increase quotas and the time boats can go out to sea before the town’s fishing fleet disappeared altogether.
The biggest problem is that the fleet slumped from 15 trawlers 10 years ago to seven or eight, said the Whitby Alliance Fish Organisation. Quota restrictions meant a lot of boats were having to find other ways of making a living such as oil and gas rig work.
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