Monday, 28 September 2009

Lack of predators boosting Scottish shellfish?

In 1975 roughly 262,413 tonnes of demersal fish and 20,000 tonnes of shellfish were landed at Scottish ports.

In 2003 99,654 tonnes of demersal fish and 65,000 tonnes of shellfish were landed at Scottish ports. (Source: Realm of Scotland).

Demersal fish are the primary predators of shellfish and include cod, haddock, ling, monkfish, halibut, hake, and plaice, in other words all the fish that live and feed on or near the bottom of the sea.

As demersal fish stocks have dwindled due to overfishing it appears from the statistics that the shellfish on which the demersal fish feed are thriving.

With fewer and fewer predators except man, I expect Scottish shellfish and the industry that depends on them, to continue to thrive.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Sea angling competition highlights overfishing

Old Man of Hoy, Orkney, Scotland

Nothing in recent times has come close to illustrating the problem of overfishing in UK waters quite so eloquently as this story about a sea angling competition recently held off the coast of Orkney, Scotland.

More than 150 international anglers spent five days competing in the European Sea Angling Championships, and only one haddock was landed.

In the 1970's and early 80's the waters around Orkney teemed with fish. On one trip to the Black Craig, a stone's throw from Stromness harbour, we caught plenty of haddock, cod, coalfish, pollock, mackerel and plaice, all in the space of about two hours. Now that same spot is devoid of fish.

Commercial fishermen knew where the fish were and systematically cleaned out each well-known spot with a couple of trawls, leaving the sea anglers with nothing.

If ever there was a case for marine reserves, it is in this story. We have allowed many of our coastal seas to become deserts, and for that we should collectively hang our heads in shame.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The demise of sharks

Whilst watching 'Warship' on Channel Five (UK) recently the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean was forced to stop in Malaysian waters to recover a dead body. The body had obviously been in the water for some time as it was badly decomposed.

This got me thinking. Aren't Malaysian waters meant to be shark infested? If so what was a dead body doing floating around long enough to decompose?

Sharks are not only predators, they are also the scavengers of the sea, cleaning up all the dead and dying, keeping the ocean healthy. Was this yet another sign that sharks are becoming increasingly rare due to overfishing?

I recalled in my mind the USS Indianapolis incident. In 1945 whilst on a top secret mission to deliver parts for the atomic bomb she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and 900 of her 1200 crew succumbed to attacks by sharks or drowned.

If the Indianapolis was to undergo this fate in 2009, it is possible that the last thing that her crew would need to worry about would be an attack by a shark - there just aren't enough sharks left.

'Shark infested' may well be a term that passes into history as we move into the next decade.