The end of fish?


Deep-sea fishing is more like mining than harvesting and the finny tribe , like coal or oil are being extracted in the same way as those unrenewable resources. Australian trawlers mining the sea-bed for orange roughy fish take a metric ton of 1,000 year old coral for every 2.25 tons of fish caught. And the only reason they are fishing for the 1,000 metre deep orange roughy in the first place is because there’s little left in shallower waters.
A new shock book: The Unnatural History of the Sea, by Professor Callum Roberts, published by Gaia Thinking, makes the chilling claim that: ‘Today we are playing out the endgame of fishing and in the process are turning large expanses of the sea into near lifeless wastes.’
Deep sea trawlers chase cod, halibut, ling and rockfish using nets held open by five ton doors on rollers of two foot diameter steel balls towed by 10,000 horsepower engines which can drag rocks or reefs 10 feet in diameter along with the catch. They are called ‘Canyonbusters’.
None of this should surprise us. Over 15 years ago when I worked as a reporter in Fleet Street one assignment took me to Fecamp, Normandy. Here were trawlers which looked like Fairline motor cruisers and which moved at similar speeds, subsidised by the French government, zipping across to ‘our’ side of the Channel to swallow up turbot by the stone. The equivalent on our side of the water were wooden MFVs designed to go no further than 30 miles off Whitby, but braving the Western Approaches with a metal water hood welded over the focsle head to try and allay foundering. Such trawlermen lived in fear of Britain’s 150 fish inspectors while the French fished with impunity watched by 15 inspectors! We witnessed lemon sole no bigger than oysters being landed at Boulogne, France’s largest fishing port. We were told fishing, unlike farming, is poorly represented in Westminster because many MPs are farmers, few are fishermen. One can only hope these appalling people find rogue fish bones in their seared tuna.