Fisheries management has failed us

Fisheries management has failed us

Icelandic independent fisheries scientist Jón Kristjánsson has lashed out at modern fisheries management methods, saying that management has failed to deliver in to its promises of more fish and better fishing.

He said that after forty years of cautionary management in Iceland, cod catches are currently half of what they were when management was imposed on the industry, and the situation with other demersal stocks is similar.

‘When this process began, the experts at the Marine Research Institute promised an average of 500,000 tonnes of cod a year if their recommendations were followed, and that has been done, particularly in recent years,’ he said, explaining that the extension of 200-mile EEZ limits provided the opportunities to restrict fishing, predicting that protecting young fish would increase productivity, allow the spawning stock to grow and increase recruitment.

‘The idea was to reduce effort on juvenile fish and be cautious in fishing spawning fish. This was done by increasing mesh sizes and with area closures. This was followed by the quota system, to stop too much being caught. And this policy is still being followed, to catch less so we can have more later – and what’s the result?’

The cod quota dropped to 169,000 tonnes in 1995 and to 147,000 tonnes in 2008.

‘Now it’s 230,000 tonnes and MRI is boasting about its achievements, even though only half of the amount of cod is caught as was landed before management was introduced,’ he said, and pointed out that Iceland is not the only example of poor management.

‘Baltic cod are in poor shape and the weight of 3-year old fish has fallen by 300 grammes from 1.7kg in 1997. Polish fishermen was accused of overfishing and were restricted after joining the EU under the slogan Fewer Boats, More Fish. Yet now cod are starving in the Baltic and the only response the scientific advice can come up with is more cuts in quotas, with a 56% reduction next year,’ he said, citing further examples of mismanagement of cod and other demersal species in the North Sea and the Irish Sea.

The full text of Jón Kristjánsson’s presentation during a conference in the Faroe Islands in September 2016 can be found here.