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Fall in Fishing Pressure Confirmed in Scientific Assessment

26 April 2013

SCOTLAND, UK - With Scottish seafood suppliers enjoying a huge amount of interest from international customers at this week’s European Seafood Exposition in Brussels, the sustainability credentials of Scottish-caught fish has been further buoyed by recent data from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which reveals a significant fall in fishing pressure on stocks in the north-east Atlantic.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) says the data from the respected scientific body ICES underlines the very clear trend in falling fishing pressure over the last decade. In particular, the data shows that the decline in fishing mortality is not just confined to one species group, but is spread across all the main fisheries – demersal (such as cod and haddock), benthic (such as place and sole) and pelagic (such as mackerel and herring).

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF said: “The fall in fishing mortality is very significant, which in turn is resulting in increased stock abundance for most species. This is great news for our fisheries and our seas and we hope it is something that environmental NGOs will also publicly recognise.”

The SFF believes that the fall in fishing pressure is the result of a variety of factors including measures to protect cod, the introduction of long-term management plans for fisheries, and fishermen (such as in Scotland) adopting innovative conservation measures such as technical alterations to nets and real-time area closures to protect spawning and juvenile fish.

Mr Armstrong said: “What is particularly significant and noteworthy about this new data is the sheer scope of the downward trend in fishing pressure, which is occurring across all species groups and over a broad geographical area.”

Meanwhile, a recent report from the NAFC Marine Centre in Shetland, which collated and summarised previous information published by ICES, revealed that the Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) of North Sea haddock in 2012 is 4.5 times larger than 1991; the plaice stock in the North Sea was larger in 2012 than at any time since 1960; the combined SSB of North Sea cod, haddock, whiting and plaice in 2012 was 40 per cent larger than in the 1990s; and the average fishing mortality rate on the West of Scotland was less than half that in 2000.

Mr Armstrong said: “The abundance of most stocks are recovering at a very satisfactory rate, which is fantastic news for the consumer as it means that they can continue to purchase quality Scottish seafood confident in the knowledge that it is being sustainably and responsibly caught.”

The ICES data in graph format on trends in fishing mortality can be viewed on page 201 at: Reports/ICES Advice/2011/ICES ADVICE 2011 BOOK 1.pdf

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