The UK today ran out of fish from her own waters, and became dependent on imported fish for the rest of the year, according to a report from NEF (the New Economics Foundation) and OCEAN2012.

If stocks were allowed to recover, the UK could meet her annual demand and stop consuming more fish than her seas produce.

Though dependent on foreign stock as of tomorrow, the UK does better than many of its European counterparts. The fish dependence days of France, Germany and Italy fell on May 21, April 20 and April 21 respectively, while EU citizens on average ran out of fish on July 7 this year.

Overfishing means the UK is getting much less out of its fish stocks than if they were restored and sustainably managed.

The report Jobs Lost at Sea published by nef earlier this year estimates the benefits of rebuilding 43 European stocks (out of more than 150) and finds that:
– Restoring commercial UK fish stocks to their maximum sustainable yield would increase the additional catch in 467,292 tones, 1.6 times the current fish import deficit.
– If directed only to human food consumption, the additional landings from rebuilding UK stocks could provide for the annual consumption of 23 million Brits and would allow the UK to meet the annual fish demand for the whole year.
– At current levels of consumption, restoring UK stocks would allow the UK to move from being a net importer to being a net exporter.

Rupert Crilly from the New Economics Foundation said:

“The UK is an island nation with access to some of the richest and most productive fishing grounds and has moderate levels of fish consumption compared to Spain and Portugal. It could produce as much as it needs but instead it is a net importer of fish.

“Consumers understand that we import tuna which is virtually non-existent in its in waters; but it will wonder why we need to import cod and haddock from China when our cod and haddock stocks could deliver five and three times more catches with better management.”

Just over a quarter of all imports of cod in 2010 came from Iceland. The second largest exporter of cod to the UK was China (14 thousand tonnes). Imports from EU member states accounted for 29 per cent of all cod imports into the UK in 2010. More than half of all haddock imported into the UK in 2010 came from Iceland (17 thousand tonnes) and Norway (16 thousand tonnes). The next largest was China, which exported 8 thousand tonnes of haddock to the UK in 2010.

Image copyright Matt Banks

Further Reading:
Fish dependence – 2012 update