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December 10, 2014

Fishy Business


Every Wednesday, a small scale fisherman is right outside the supermarket I usually go to, and sells his freshly caught fish. He is very friendly and I have sometimes fallen into conversation with him over fisheries in general. He is a bit pricy, but I think it’s worth supporting small scale fishermen compared to big industrial trawlers. I love eating fish so every Wednesday I always look forward to see what ‘’today’s catch’’ was.

But last week I went over and saw something that suddenly gave me really mixed feelings about him. On his table, among the rest of the fish, was a shark. It was a spiny dogfish, also known as spurdog (Squalus acanthias), which I know is an endangered species in the North Sea where it was caught (not by him, but bought from a fish auction), but at that point I didn’t really know the regulation so I just let it slip, although I was almost sure it was illegal. The fins were still attached so finning was not an issue here. My suspicions were confirmed when I got home and checked the EU regulation for TACs (Total Allowable Catch) for 2014, and found them all to be at zero, which basically means that fishermen are not allowed to catch this species. The TAC has actually been zero in all EU waters since 2011. The Northeast Atlantic population of this species has suffered overfishing and is Critically Endangered according to IUCN data.

The next week I went to buy my weekly fish again, but before that, I told the fisherman that it was wrong to sell a fish that is not only highly endangered, but also illegal. At first he tried to justify that it wasn’t illegal in any way since he had the receipt from the auction he had bought it from, and that it was caught in the North Sea and not in the Baltic. I then told him that I had checked the EU regulation and that it was illegal in all EU waters since it has a zero TAC. Once he realized that I had actually done some research on the subject, he became defensive, saying that he will bring the issue to the people he bought it from, and that he wouldn’t be buying it again.

Whether or not that’s true is a whole different story, but at least now he knows there is someone among his customers that will notice if he keeps doing ‘’fishy’’ business.