ICES Advice: “Most Stocks Stable”

27th July 2009 in Fisheries Science

In an overview given to a major consultative meeting on the Scientific Advice on European fish stocks, held recently in Brussels, a senior ICES scientist stated that most European fish stocks can be categorised as being broadly stable.

This will come as no great surprise to fishermen who directly experience the fluctuations in abundance from one year to the next but it is a very welcome and important message from a body that has not always been immune from importing a hysterical tone into its press statements.

The International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the Copenhagen based international body that provides scientific advice for client commissions, including the European Union, takes the view that while some fish stocks are improving, others face difficulties - but the vast majority in the middle are broadly stable.

ICES told the meeting:

“Our message is rather moderate. We are not in the best of worlds. But we are not in the worst of worlds either. There are some encouraging signs and there are some discouraging signs. In the middle most stocks are stable.

ICES emphasised that “One cannot make general statements about the state of stocks because regional trends vary so widely”.

This analysis corresponds with the Federation’s own view but the mainstream press routinely present European, indeed world fish stocks, as being in terminal decline. ICES’s sober assessment is not likely to receive much media coverage but is important nonetheless.

The European Commission itself, for its own political motives, not least in the preamble to its recent Green Paper on CFP reform, has from time to time, promoted the view that the major trends in European fisheries are dire and getting worse.

The NFFO has consistently taken the view that European fish stocks could be managed much better to deliver higher yields and more profitable fisheries. But the kind of hysterical doom-mongering that emerges repeatedly in the press is not only a silly distraction, it is highly damaging to the industry’s reputation and consumer confidence in eating fish without triggering some kind of environmental disaster.

This is why ICES’s presentation is so welcome and so overdue.