Britain's fish all eaten till next year
August 04 2010 Lewis Smith
Britons eat fish at such a rate that they have passed the point of the year where native stocks can cope with their appetites.
Enough fish are caught in British waters to supply the country, whether for fish and chips or for Michelin starred roast fillet of turbot, for just 151 days of the year.
If people ate the native stocks each year until they ran out then yesterday, August 3, was the day in the year when the larder emptied. From today, August 4, until the end of the year Britons would have to resort to foreign imports. It has been dubbed Fish Dependency Day.
Moreover, warns a report, the date home supplies run out is now two weeks earlier than it was at the start of the decade.
The shortfall in home grown fish means Britain has to rely increasingly on imports, notably from Iceland, China, Norway and Thailand.
Each year an average of 20.6kg of fish is eaten by each person in Britain, which is close to the European average but significantly higher than the global average of 16.4kg, found the report by the economic and environmental think tank New Economic Foundation and the sustainable fishing campaign group Ocean2012.
The forthcoming review and potential reform of EU Common Fisheries Policy provides Britain and other countries with the chance to introduce measures that will allow fish stocks to recover enough to encourage better levels of self-sufficiency.
"In Britain we eat more fish than our seas can produce. If people in the UK were to only eat fish from our own supplies, we would run-out of fish on 3rd August. UK fish supplies only last for seven months of the year, after that, the UK becomes dependent on fish from elsewhere," said Aniol Esteban, one of the authors of the "Fish Dependency" report.
"We’ve cashed in the chips on our fish supplies; but we now have a big chance to restore fish stocks at the UK level and beyond."
He urged Richard Benyon, the fisheries minister, to allow fishermen who fish sustainably to be given priority access to fishing grounds, at the expense of those who have a record of destroying stocks.
Rupert Crilly, his co-author, added: "The good news is that some UK fish stocks are recovering, but the reality is that the large majority of stocks continue to be overfished. The UK government is showing some positive signals, but now is the time to translate these into real action.
"We need to introduce a system that rewards, in profits, the people who do the right thing. At the moment the converse is happening. It’s the people who are doing the wrong things at sea who are profitting."
While Britain uses up its own fish in 151 days its record is, however, better than most other EU countries. The average date for EU-caught stocks running out is July 9. France runs out on June 20, Spain on May 10, Germany on May 5, Italy on May 6 and Portugal on April 2.
Portuguese people eat the most in Europe with each person consuming an average of 55.66kg annually. The Spanish come second with a 41.22kg average. They are followed by Lithuanians with 36.88kg and the French with 35.33kg.
Mr Crilly pointed out that 72 per cent of European fish stocks are now being taken out of the seas at unsustainable levels. This, he said, not only destroys the marine environment but damages the economy because of lost income, lost markets and lost jobs.
Among the measures he wants to see is the promotion of responsible consumption so that the public avoids, either through choice or the lack of availability, fish that are caught unsustainably. He added: "It is clear that we need to fish and consume in a different way. There should be a lot more awareness and a lot more transparentcy in terms of the labelling."
Fish farming, aquaculture, has made important contributions to sustainability, the report found. Without it the date at which Britain ran out of fish would be on July 13 – three weeks earlier. For Europe as a whole it would be June 14 rather than July 9.
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