"Long before it's in the papers"
June 04, 2013

RETURN TO THE WORLD SCIENCE HOME PAGE


Study: fleet works 17 times harder for same fish catch of 1880s

May 4, 2010
Courtesy of the University of York
and World Science staff

In a stun­ning sta­tis­tic that sci­en­tists say high­lights a dras­tic de­cline in Eu­ro­pe­an fish stocks, a study has found that the U.K. trawl fish­ing fleet works 17 times harder to catch the same amount of fish to­day as it did when sails pow­ered its boats.

“For all its tech­no­log­i­cal so­phis­tica­t­ion and raw pow­er, to­day’s trawl fish­ing fleet has far less suc­cess than its sail-pow­ered equiv­a­lent of the late 19th cen­tu­ry be­cause of the sharp de­clines in fish abun­dance,” said Ruth Thurstan of the Uni­vers­ity of York, U.K., lead au­thor of the stu­dy.

The good old days? In the Track of the Traw­lers, an 1896 paint­ing by En­glish art­ist Charles Na­pier He­my


The re­search is pub­lished in Na­ture Com­mu­nica­t­ions, a new on­line sci­ence jour­nal from the pub­lish­ers of the jour­nal Na­ture.

“Over a cen­tu­ry of in­ten­sive trawl fish­ing has se­verely de­plet­ed U.K. seas of bot­tom liv­ing fish like hal­i­but, tur­bot, had­dock and plaice,” said Si­mon Brock­ing­ton, head of con­serva­t­ion at the U.K.’s Ma­rine Con­serva­t­ion So­ci­e­ty and co-au­thor of the stu­dy.

“This re­search makes clear that the state of U.K. bot­tom fish­eries—and by im­plica­t­ion Eu­ro­pe­an fish­er­ies, since the fish­ing grounds are shared—is far worse than even the most pes­simistic of as­sess­ments cur­rently in cir­cula­t­ion,” added Cal­lum Roberts of the Uni­vers­ity of York, an­oth­er co-au­thor. “These re­sults should supply an im­por­tant cor­rec­tive to the short-termism in­her­ent in fish­er­ies man­age­ment to­day.”

Ex­perts say overfish­ing is threat­en­ing ma­rine popula­t­ions world­wide, with one 2006 study warn­ing there may be lit­tle sea­food left by mid-cen­tu­ry.

Trawl fish­ing boats catch fish by drag­ging a large net through the sea be­hind them. Thurstan and col­leagues used gov­ern­ment da­ta on the amount of fish caught and the size and num­ber of boats in­volved to an­a­lyse the change in fish stocks since 1889. The team found that trawl fish land­ings peak­ed in 1937, 14 times high­er than to­day.


* * *

Send us a comment on this story, or send it to a friend









 

Sign up for
e-newsletter
   
 
subscribe
 
cancel

On Home Page         

LATEST

  • Meet­ing on­line may lead to hap­pier mar­riages

  • Pov­erty re­duction, environ­mental safe­guards go hand in hand: UN re­port

EXCLUSIVES

  • Was black­mail essen­tial for marr­iage to evolve?

  • Plu­to has even cold­er “twin” of sim­ilar size, studies find

  • Could simple an­ger have taught people to coop­erate?

  • Diff­erent cul­tures’ mu­sic matches their spe­ech styles, study finds

MORE NEWS

  • F­rog said to de­scribe its home through song

  • Even r­ats will lend a help­ing paw: study

  • D­rug may undo aging-assoc­iated brain changes in ani­mals

In a stunning statistic that scientists say highlights a drastic decline in European fish stocks, a study has found that the U.K. trawl fishing fleet works 17 times harder to catch the same amount of fish today as it did when sails powered its boats. “For all its technological sophistication and raw power, today’s trawl fishing fleet has far less success than its sail-powered equivalent of the late 19th century because of the sharp declines in fish abundance,” said Ruth Thurstan of the University of York, U.K., lead author of the study. The research is published in Nature Communications, a new online science journal from the publishers of the journal Nature. “Over a century of intensive trawl fishing has severely depleted U.K. seas of bottom living fish like halibut, turbot, haddock and plaice,” said Simon Brockington, head of conservation at the U.K.’s Marine Conservation Society and co-author of the study. “This research makes clear that the state of U.K. bottom fisheries—and by implication European fisheries, since the fishing grounds are shared—is far worse than even the most pessimistic of assessments currently in circulation,” added Callum Roberts of the University of York, another co-author. “These results should supply an important corrective to the short-termism inherent in fisheries management today.” Experts say overfishing is threatening marine populations worldwide, with one 2006 study warning that there may be little seafood left by the middle of this century. Trawl fishing boats catch fish dragging a large net through the sea behind them. Thurstan and colleagues used government data on the amount of fish caught and the size and number of boats involved to analyse the change in fish stocks since 1889. The team found that trawl fish landings peaked in 1937, 14 times higher than today. The findings are the result of a study using previously overlooked records and suggest the decline in stocks of popular fish such as cod, haddock and plaice is far more profound than previously thought, the investigators said.