Fish stocks facing collapse
Tornton Star , 17 Feb 02

North Atlantic needs drastic action now, scientists warn

HALIFAX (CP) - Fishing fleets in the North Atlantic must be seriously reduced if depleted fish stocks are to ever recover, a group of scientists is recommending.

A study released yesterday revealed that catches of preferred fish species such as cod, tuna, haddock, flounder and hake have declined over the last 50 years despite a growing effort to find them.

The study conducted by an international group of fisheries scientists painted a grim picture of fish stocks in the North Atlantic.

"The only way we are maintaining yield is by increasing effort," said Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia. who headed the study.

"But you need fish to make fish, so we have produced a massive reduction in productivity," Pauly said.

While collapses of fisheries in New EngJand and Newfoundland have appeared to be local in scale, the study said the collapse affects the entire North Atlantic.

Serial depletion of large predatorY fish at the top of the marine food chain means the major fisheries in the North Atlantic are now for invertebrates.

"We are fishing for bait and headed for jellyfish," said Pauly.

The study detennined that catches have declined steadily over the last half-century despite a tripling in fishing effort.

Andy Rosenberg, a fisheries scientist at the University of New Hampshire, said the problem of declining stocks can't be fixed "one fishery at a time became the boats move around. The efforts simply Shifts to somewhere else and makes their problems worse," he said.

Rosenberg said that beside a reduction in the size of fishing fleets, government subsidies to the industry must be cut and eventually abolished.

"The only solution is serious and immediate action to reduce the number of boats and to work toward a basin-wide ecosystem approach that considers all species," he said.

"Systematically I we have a huge problem, We can't keep addressing this one symptom at a time."

The study was reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston yesterday.