New Approach Needed if Fish Stocks are to Survive

A new approach to fisheries management, taking into account the full range of human impacts on the ecosystem, is needed if fish stocks are to survive, according to Professor Chris Frid of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, speaking at the EurOCEAN European Conference on Marine Science and Ocean Technology in Galway today.

"Fishing is generally regarded as the most pervasive human impact on the marine environment," said Prof Frid, who described the various effects of fishing as including direct removal of target species, alterations in populations of non-target fish and bottom-living animals and alterations in the physical and chemical environment of the sea through disruption of the bottom.

"While fishing effort reduction may be the single most effective measure in preserving stocks, it will not on its own provide full protection," said Prof Frid, who called for more dialogue between fishermen, fisheries managers and scientists to understand the complex factors affecting fish stock survival and the environment in which they live. "Closed areas, whether complete or merely restricting certain metiers, are the only protection for habitat features, and even then we must still understand the necessary scale and spatial distribution required to provide protection." 

Prof Frid went on to describe how progress is already being made towards an ecosystem-based management approach to fisheries management. Acoustic 'pingers', which allow porpoises and dolphins to avoid entanglement in fishing nets, were made mandatory by the EU in the Celtic Sea, English Channel and North Sea in 2003.  Industrial fishing in the 'sand eel box' off the Scottish and northeast English coast, is closed if breeding success of kittiwakes in nearby colonies falls below a certain level and is not allowed to reopen until it has risen again.

"Science has to fulfil an educator's role in informing the stakeholders so that the management objectives set are achievable and arrived at after due consideration of the options and alternatives", said Prof Frid. "There is no doubt that one area where the science community has failed managers in the past is communication and education."