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Ronan's report

Sunday April 3rd 2011

I was at a conference the other day and listened to a presentation from the Scottish Sea Anglers Conservation Network. It didn't last long, about 20 minutes, but the guy got his point across: We're stuffing the sea every which way we turn.

He spent some time talking about the Firth of Clyde. Forty to fifty years ago, there was a thriving mixed fishery here. They held angling festivals and competitions that could attract more than 1000 anglers. Not today.

Continued depletion of fish stocks seems to have resulted in a single species commercial fishery: Nephrops, or Scampi as it's called when you get bunch of prawns in a basket at your local restaurant.

Like many other forms of commercial fishing, it's difficult to be specific about what you catch. The Clyde fishery, with 9kg of by-catch produced for every 1kg of Nephrops caught generates 25,000 tonnes of discards every year, many of which die when returned to the sea.

Now let's just think about that number for a moment. Twenty five thousand tonnes. In this era of bank bail-outs and big defence spending, with their quadrillions and billions tripping liberally off the tongue, I guess 25000 isn't a big number.

But have you ever seen a tonne of fish? The discard in the Firth of Clyde is mostly juvenile fish so let's say you get, oh - four fish to a kilogram - a fairly conservative estimate I think. So that would be 4000 fish in a tonne. 4,000,000 fish in a thousand tonnes. And an annual by-catch discard in the Firth of Clyde Nephrops fishery of 100,000,000 juvenile fish.

So I'm estimating roughly One Hundred Million fish discarded in just one "small" fishery in one part of the UK each year. Is that a big enough number for you?

There's a lot of good work out there at the moment trying to change the laws on by-catches. Make sure you help out if you can.

If you fish in the sea in Scotland (or even if you don't) you might want to get involved with these guys. They're a great bunch.


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