Ellon Probus Club recently heard a talk about fish stocks and catching methods, delivered by Jim Gauld and titled ‘Where have all the fishes gone’.
It was based on his forty-plus years working at the Aberdeen Marine Fisheries Research Laboratory and was directed at North Sea fish stocks.
The talk included an evaluation of fish capture methods and the electronic technology used to catch fish. In the 1920s, fish had a relatively charmed life and in general bred several times during their lifetime. However, with time came an ever-increasing demand by fishermen to catch more fish, a demand which in turn led to a reduction in stocks.
Two examples of a collapse in fish stocks are: herring in the 1970s, when it was necessary to introduce a four-year ban on herring fishing and b) in 2002, and when the strict catch controls had to be applied to cod stocks to avoid a similar catastrophe occurring.
Jim described how those countries bordering the North Sea act in unison through the auspices of ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) to collect data annually through a range of fish surveys to determine the size of fish stocks.
These data are assimilated and passed to EU Council of Ministers who determine the amount of fish to be caught (Total Allowable Catch [TAC]) and the quantity (quota) to be allocated to each EU state.
Fishermen do not like control measures, especially EU controls, and generally react with outrage and indignation to any perceived criticism of their industry. However without controls, EU or otherwise, it would not be long before there were no fish left in the sea.