DR Geoff Meaden, a fisheries consultant to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation, visited Bexhill on September 8 to speak about the alarming decline in recent decades of the world’s fish stocks.
Talking to Bexhill and Hastings UN Association, he said that the UK had been the chief fishing country till 1911.
Now, it had been replaced by China, followed by Japan, USA, Peru, Chile, Indonesia, and Thailand etc, and was in 24th place.
However, the main fisheries problem, almost worldwide, was overfishing. Dr Meaden illustrated this with the tragedy of Canada’s Grand Banks, off the coast of Newfoundland. Once the largest cod fishery in the world, it had attracted fishermen from far and wide.
But new supertrawlers had come into use in the 1950s and, in 1968, the catch had peaked. In fact, the sheer volume of fish caught and the methods used had destroyed whole fish populations for decades.
Despite repeated warning from scientists, the Canadian government had failed to act. Finally, in 1992, the Grand Banks fishery had been closed, though it had already collapsed.
Even today, the cod had still not returned.
Dr Meaden said Europe’s poor management of its own marine fisheries over the last 20 to 30 years had also been disastrous.
He advised his listeners to urge their MP to press Parliament to amend marine legislation in order to establish highly protected marine reserves and compensate fishermen. He also suggested they ask their MEPs to press for the reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.