No more fish in the UK sea for food manufacturers - this year

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Fish, chips and a sustainable fishing policy please ... is the call from think-tank NEF
Fish, chips and a sustainable fishing policy please ... is the call from think-tank NEF

Related tags: Overfishing, Uk

The UK’s annual supply of fish from home waters ran out this week – making food manufacturers reliant on stocks from as far afield as China, warns a report from think tank the New Economics Foundation (NEF).

It argued urgent action is necessary to allow UK stocks to recover to a level where UK fish demand can once again be met from UK seas.

Rupert Crilly, from NEF, 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 with Spain and Portugal. It could produce as much as it needs but, instead, it is a net importer of fish.”

But the UK relies on imported fish, such as haddock and cod, with about one-in-three fish consumed in the UK imported from outside the EU.

Haddock and cod

Domestic fish stocks satisfy UK demand for about 233 days a year, said the NEF. That meant UK fish stocks ran out on August 21.

Crilly said: “Consumers understand that we import tuna, which is virtually non-existent in our waters. But they 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.”

The UK imports over 101,000t of cod, valued at £372M, and 60,000t of haddock, costing £156M, in a year. Popular suppliers, in addition to China, include Iceland and Norway.

Ian Campbell, UK co-ordinator for campaign group Ocean2012, said: “The next few months are critical to decide the fate of EU fisheries. The UK has been a progressive voice in the reform of the EU’s fisheries management. But it will need to be much more ambitious and push others in the same direction if it wants to see the end of overfishing in and by the EU.

Healthy fishing

“Fishing within sustainable levels and adapting fish consumption to available resources is the only way to regain healthy fishing grounds.”

NEF and the campaign group argue that fish stocks could be restored by:

  • Reducing fishing capacity to bring it in-line with available resources by improving data collection, transparency and reporting
  • Prioritising scientific advice in determining catch quotas
  • Promoting responsible consumption among EU consumers
  • Implementing measures that are conducive to more responsible fishing outside EU waters
  • Making conservation profitable, by making access to resources conditional on social and environmental criteria
  • Using public funds to deliver social and environmental goods by investing in environmentally constructive measures, research, and stakeholder involvement
  • Enforcing sustainable quotas and practices.


In a joint statement, the organisations claimed: “These aims contrast with the current funding pattern of supporting overcapacity in the fishing fleet through modernising vessels, and failure to control overfishing, for example by allowing access to fisheries stocks.”

In June, EU ministers agreed in principle to end the controversial policy of discarding fish at sea once EU fishing quotas had been exceeded. The deal followed a high-profile campaign by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Fearnley-Whittingstall is battling six other candidates, including Premier Foods boss Michael Clarke for the coveted title Food Manufacture ​Personality of the Year award. To view the other candidates and cast your vote, click here​.

To read more about plans to end fish discards, click here​.

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