Warning over fish consumption in UK

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The Independent Online

The UK's consumption of fish in 2011 has already matched what our seas can supply for a year, campaigners said today.

Research from think tank NEF, the New Economics Foundation, and the Ocean2012 campaign suggests that the amount of fish we eat in the UK is almost double the produce fished from British waters.

Annual fish supplies from our seas can only satisfy demand for 196 days - which means that if we were to rely only on our own fisheries we would run out of stocks for dishes such as the traditional favourite of fish and chips after today (July 15).

The report shows the impact of declining stocks and rising consumption by putting annual resources on to a calendar year and finding the day when European countries start to eat into catches from elsewhere in the world.

It shows that the day on which the UK effectively uses up its own supplies has got earlier, from August 4 last year, and six weeks earlier than in 1995, showing a growing reliance on imports.

Across the EU as a whole, the problem is even more acute, with the bloc running out of its own fish on July 2.

The report, which comes as the EU sets out proposals for reforms of its fisheries policy, calls for fishing capacity to be reduced in line with available resources, and for scientific advice to be properly heeded in setting fish catch quotas.

The campaigners are calling for responsible consumption to be promoted to EU consumers and measures which ensure sustainable fishing outside Europe's waters.

And they want access to fisheries to be dependent on meeting conservation criteria, and for investment in environmental measures and enforcement of sustainable quotas and practices.

The report's author Aniol Esteban, of NEF, said: "In a context of finite resources and growing populations, the current model is environmentally unviable, socially unfair and makes no economic sense.

"It's a shame that our appetite for fish is not accompanied by an appetite to ensure a sustainable future for fisheries and fishing communities in the UK, Europe and beyond."

He said that maintaining current levels of consumption without getting EU fish stocks back into shape will only worsen the situation.

Ian Campbell from Ocean2012, said: "It turns out there aren't plenty more fish in the sea after all.

"Unless we radically change course, we're facing a future of abandoned fishing communities, huge job losses, depleted oceans and a sad end to a Great British meal," he warned.