I’m a wee bit late netting this good news story. A report from the NAFC Marine Centre which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, published on 24th January, concludes:
‘Two general trends are apparent from the whitefish data:
¨ The spawning stock biomasses (SSB) of most whitefish stocks have increased since the mid-2000s, in some cases by substantial amounts.
¨ The fishing mortality rates (F) for all the species covered have declined since the mid-2000s, again by substantial amounts in some cases. Although the sizes of some stocks (such as cod and haddock) remain below levels seen in the past, stocks of others (such as plaice and hake) are at historic highs.’
With one exception, Haddock, ten other whitefish species are increasing in estimated biomass and in the case of three, the increase is dramatic.
In the case of cod, the increase has been four-fold from under 50 000 tons in 2006 to around 170 000 in 2016. In the same time period, Plaice biomass has increased from around 240 000 tonnes to approaching 1 million tonnes! Again in the same period, Hake has increased from around 40 000 tonnes to more than 300 000 tonnes and still climbing.
Looking at the aggregate figures for the North Sea, again from 2006 to 2016, total biomass has grown from less than 400 000 tonnes to 1.2 million tonnes and is still climbing. This is the highest figure since 1963!
Looking at the combined North Sea and West of Scotland situation the report states:
‘The combined biomass in 2016 [approaching 2 million tonnes] was more than 2.5 times greater than that in 2001, more than 80% larger than the average over the preceding 35 years, and larger than at any time since at least 1981. A straight trend-line fitted through the SSB data shows an overall upward trend over the last 35 years.’
In the Press & Journal, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief commented:
‘We are delighted this report confirms the general trend of increasing fish stocks in Scottish waters. Much of this recovery can be attributed to the innovation of our fishermen in developing more selective types of fishing gear and pioneering other initiatives such as real-time area closures. With Brexit looming, our fishermen can look to the future with real confidence. This steady and hard-won recovery must be nurtured and continued.’