Stopping overfishing could see fish catches up 87% in waters around UK and Ireland

Press Release Date: May 29, 2017

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Research finds potential for 200,000 tonnes more cod, sole, plaice and other fish within 5-7 years

An overhaul of current fisheries management could result in 87% more fish being caught in the Atlantic waters around the UK, Ireland and the north-west of France if governments stop overfishing, marine conservation organization Oceana has announced today.

According to a scientific study on the status and potential of fish catches in the North Western Waters, doubling current fish catches from 228,000 tonnes per year to 475,000 tonnes could be possible within 5-7 years.

Fish popular on UK dinner tables such cod, plaice, whiting and sole, could potentially see record-breaking catch increases if the stocks were well-managed and fished at levels scientists consider safe to ensure their sustainability in the long term.

“If we stop mismanaging fish we can increase catches by 87%. This will create more jobs and improve profits in the fishing industry. If quotas are set based on scientific advice, essential fish habitats are protected and destructive fishing practices are stopped it will only take 5-7 years to see the benefits for everyone”, said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe.

The current status of stocks in North Western Waters is cause for concern. Thirty-six stocks are in an unhealthy state, 19 of which have biomass levels outside safe biological limits and 7 of these stocks are in a severely depleted critical condition, potentially jeopardizing their reproduction capacity. These include:

  • Sole in the Irish Sea;
  • Plaice in the southern Celtic Sea and south-west of Ireland;
  • Cod in Rockall waters, in the north-west of Scotland and in the north of Ireland;
  • Red seabream in the whole region.

To avoid unsustainably managed fish stocks ending up in depleted stocks, Oceana recommends a series of actions to ensure the long-term viability of fish resources in North Wester Waters:

  • Drawing up robust multi-annual fishery management plans that cap fish catches to scientific recommendations;
  • Adopting emergency measures, such as closing fishing for certain species and in certain regions, if they are heavily overfished or depleted;
  • Protecting areas where fish are known to breed and grow to allow the stock numbers to recover;
  • Putting an end to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and damaging fishing practices, such bottom trawling, which results in unwanted fish by-catch and marine habitat destruction.

Full report on the status and potential of fish stocks in North Western Waters