New research reveals that the UK could not feed itself on fish from UK waters for more than six and a half months a year and that this trend is worsening.
In Britain we eat more fish than our seas can produce. Nearly one out of every two fish consumed in the UK comes from abroad. Fish supplies from UK waters can sustain the nation’s appetite for only 196 days a year: after that, the UK becomes dependent on fish from elsewhere, according to the Fish Dependence report from leading independent think-tank nef (the new economics foundation) and OCEAN2012.
The report shows that the day in which the UK starts relying on fish from other countries comes three weeks earlier (16 July) than last year (4 August) and six weeks earlier than in 1995 showing an increasing reliance on fish from abroad.
"In a context of finite resources and growing populations, the current model is environmentally unviable, socially unfair and makes no economic sense. We are eating into the jobs and livelihoods of fishing communities in the UK and beyond” said Aniol Esteban, head of Environmental Economics at nef and co-author of the report. “It’s a shame that our appetite for fish is not accompanied by an appetite to ensure a sustainable future for fisheries and fishing communities in the UK, Europe and beyond”
The report shows the impact of stock decline and rising consumption by mapping resources onto a calendar year and then finding the day when the EU - and each one of its member states - starts to eat the catch from the rest of the world. It shows that:
With EU catches decreasing by 30 per cent between 1995 and 2005 (1) according to Eurostat figures; and total employment in the EU fisheries sector decreasing by 23 per cent between 1997 and 2005 (2) it is clear that we need to fish and consume in a different way.
“Fish stock restoration deserves more attention than the promotion of fish consumption. Maintaining current levels of fish consumption without getting core fish stocks back into shape will only take the UK a step closer to becoming a “fish-predator nation”, such as Spain, Portugal or Japan” said Aniol Esteban from nef.
The report points to the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy as a unique opportunity to bring fish back to UK and EU seas.
The European Commission will release a proposal for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy on 13 July. From then on it will be up to national governments and the European Parliament to shape this piece of legislation in a way that delivers healthy fish stocks for the benefit of the environment, economy and society.
The UK government has a massive opportunity to show leadership and act to secure a new EU fisheries policy that delivers sustainable and fair outcomes for all.
“It turns out that there aren’t plenty more fish in the sea after all. Unless we radically change course, we’re facing a future of abandoned fishing communities, huge job losses, depleted oceans and a sad end to a Great British meal,” said Ian Campbell from OCEAN2012 and nef. “The EU fisheries policy reform is a unique opportunity to bring fish back to British waters”.
The report urges immediate action to:
(1) Source: European Commission, Reflections on further reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. 2008
(2) Source: European Commission, A diagnosis of the EU fisheries sector. 2010