Nature Notes with Tony Drakeford: Fish tale

Nature Notes: Fish tale

Nature Notes: Fish tale

First published in Nature Notes Streatham Guardian: Photograph of the Author by

The ancient quotation telling us that 'there are more fish in the sea than ever came out of it' most certainly does not hold water in the 21st century.

Many familiar and once abundant species are under threat of extinction as a result of overfishing drastically reducing stocks with fishing methods completely out of proportion to the amount of fish remaining.

I remember in the 1960s that the master of a British trawler who caught the greatest tonnage of cod in a year was awarded a 'silver cod' trophy. How things have changed in fifty years.

Foreign fleets using huge factory ships catching and processing 150 tons of fish on a daily basis out-compete British trawlers; deep sea bottom trawling ravages the sea bed to create a barren environment and a new method using sonic pulses stuns fish on the sea bed before scooping them up.

All these methods are responsible for the problems.

I spoke to some Devon fishermen recently who told me that there are still plenty of mackerel (see photo) around.

However, looking at their catch and that displayed in local shops, I noticed that all the fish were smaller than normal and therein lies another problem because if fish are caught before reaching maturity and ready to spawn, then that also diminishes stocks.

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Furthermore, when quotas are exceeded, much of the catch is dumped back dead in the sea, a shameful waste.

Strict legislation is urgently needed with some zones around our coasts declared no-go conservation areas to build up dwindling stocks once more.

If nothing changes rapidly then our traditional Saturday night fish and chip supper which we introduced to the world will soon become a distant memory.

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