From the Hirtshals conference "EU and the Fishery" 13 - 15. December 2002







Industrial fishery (fish meal and fish oil).

In the EU waters, a significant industrial fishery is taking place (ca. 1.5 million tons per year) with trawls using small meshes, for sand eel, Norway pout, and other species, used for the production of fish meal and oil. Except from the sand eel fishery during the months of April-July, the industrial fishery has serious problems with by-catches of other species of juvenile fish. This situation has developed so drastically that it now gives an almost absurd dimension to the discussions of cutting down the quotas of especially cod and haddock:

The plans of reducing the total allowable catches (TAC) of cod and haddock in the EU by 80 %, or entirely stopping these fisheries, aim at saving the stocks of these species from a threatening collapse by prohibiting fish caught for consumption.

The Danish quota in 2002 of cod and haddock for consumption in the North Sea amounts to 13,000 tons. An 80 % cut would mean that around 10,000 tons less could be caught.

In comparison, the total annual catch in the Danish industrial fishery is around 1,000,000 tons. (This includes mainly sand eel, sprat, Norway pout). According to the national regulation a by-catch of 5 % cod and haddock is permissible, as well as a total 15 % of “other fish”, incl. also herring, saite, etc.

Much more than 5 % is actually caught as by-catch in the industrial fishery, but even if this limit were respected, it would still mean 50,000 tons of cod and haddock, most of which is undersized fish. If each undersized fish weighs 100 g. this relates to 500,000,000 juvenile fish.

Not only do the by-catches in the industrial fishery make out nearly four times the present quotas for cod and haddock, they also – due to the size of these fish – represent a very real danger to the sustainability of renewing these stocks.

Therefore, preventive measures aimed at conservation should be aimed at the industrial fishery and its by-catches; not at the sustainable fishery, which catches adult fish for human consumption.

Protected areas

In the EU waters, protected areas – such as the “plaice box” in the North Sea , the Shetland box, the “mackerel box”, etc. – have been established. The purpose of these is to protect the juvenile fish against fishing. In the plaice box e.g., you are not allowed to trawl with an engine power exceeding 299 hp.

Except from the directly illegal fishery taking place in the plaice box however, there is a significant “legal” trawling conducted from vessels employing engine powers of 800-1,000 hp. This is accepted by some authorities, when approving and financially subsidizing new constructions and renewals of engines, which officially produce a maximum of 299 hp (the engines are fixed especially for the inspection to show a capacity that does not exceed the standards), while when fishing in reality are able to provide 2-3 times as much power. Employing fishing gear (heavy trawls) on these vessels is virtually impossible with a maximum of 299 hp.

So therefore, fishermen must choose what rating they want for their engine, without the possibility of it being changed, and that would mean that only fishermen with smaller engines would be able to fish in these protected areas.  

Trawling and seining on stoney ground and reefs.

The decline of many of the fish stocks in the EU, is closely connected to the trawling and seining on stoney ground and reefs. Fishing in these places is a technique, which is still developing, and this aggressive and highly energy consuming fishing has serious and irreversible consequences for the productive, and biologically important stoney grounds and reefs.

In order to restore the stocks of cod and haddock, measures must be taken to stop this type of fishery. The vessels which have specialized in fishing on rocks should be provided financial help to either reconvert to a more resource- and nature friendly fishery, or to decommission.