Overfishing in England


            Overfishing is a very complex and far reaching problem. Bad fishing practices can cause area extinction of fish, ecological destruction, habitat damage, accidental catch of non-target species, and littering. Britain has consistently set its quotas well over scientific advice. In 2019, Britain set its quotas at 546,945 tons, or 106,925 tons over scientific advice. The European Commission estimated in 2009that 88% of monitored marine fish stocks were overfished. In the area surrounding Britain, overfishing has had many significant effects. Between 1889 and 2007, the availability of bottom-living fish for the English fleet fell by 94%. A British studyestimated there could be no more than 32,000 tons of breeding adult cod in the North Sea. According to some experts, this is barely 20% of the adult numbers required to ensure a successful, permanent population. Britain has been very resistant to changing its fishing policies. When the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea recommended a ban on cod fishing in the North Sea, Irish Sea, and West of Scotland, the European commission only proposed reductions of 50-65%. Small fisheries often complain about the unavailability of fishing quotas, blaming the EU’s common fisheries policy, however, the bigger issue is that half a dozen fish producer organizations own 97% of English quotas. Smaller fisheries voted for Brexit in the hopes that more quotas would open up without the EU’s rules, but the quotas will likely remain largely the same. Large trawlers, catching fish indiscriminately and damaging the ecosystem required to replenish them, hurt the sea much more than the smaller, more environmentally conscious fishing vessels. A cut in quotas would likely hurt the small fisheries much more than the larger ones because the large fisheries are rich enough to withstand them well enough. 

            Britain has to strike a delicate balance when addressing overfishing. Especially in the midst of Brexit, fishermen are expecting a rise in quotas, not a cut. However, according to scientific advice, it is vital that fishing be decreased as soon as possible. Therefore, Britain would like to propose a 15% cut in quotas, with large companies taking 10% of that cut. Every year, fishing quotas will be cut by another 5%, split 3.5%-1.5% between large and small scale fisheries, until quotas reach the levels of scientific advice. Cod Fishing will be particularly well regulated, and areas with especially depleted stocks of cod will be banned from fishing. Hopefully, these changes will allow Britain’s fish to start to recover from the overfishing that they have been exposed to.