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05 May 2010: British Fish Stocks
Fell Precipitously in Last Century

Fish stocks in the United Kingdom virtually collapsed in the 20th century, with the amount of fish in British waters falling by 94 percent since 1889, according to a new study. So few fish remain in British waters that fishermen today would have to work 17 times harder than 118 years ago to catch the same amount of fish, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Communications. In 1910, even though most fishermen went to sea in sail-powered vessels, the UK fishing fleet caught four times as many fish as today, the study said. Relentless fishing pressure has not only decimated sticks, but bottom trawling also has badly damaged the sea floor habitat that supported thriving populations of fish such as cod, haddock, and plaice. “It is clear that seabed ecosystems have undergone a profound reorganization since the industrialization of fishing and that commercial stocks of most bottom-living species... collapsed long ago,” wrote the study’s authors, Callum Roberts and Ruth Thurstan of the University of York. They said UK and European Union fishing quotas have done nothing to slow the collapse and said the only way to revive fish stocks is the creation of large marine protected areas where fishing is banned.


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