The date today is 09-02-09

1950 to Present Day Pt2

As low herring populations pushed fishers to diversify, other fish stocks were targeted. Mid-water trawls and faster demersal trawling allowed many more fish to be taken, with larger fish caught than had been seen for years 59. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, this successful fishing continued, until many people fished for these species full time59 rather than as a supplementary fishery between herring seasons.

However, by the late 1980s many of these fisheries started to decline. Effort increased, and technology again shifted, this time away from seine nets towards demersal trawling. The increase in trawling was almost entirely due to Nephrops67, but this fishery landed significant amounts of other species, of which the demersal fish were retained and marketed.

Increases in effort and changes in technology: after the 1960s the seine net began to decline in use whilst trawling increased sharply in the late 1960s. Light trawling is a method of fishing for demersal species but in reality Nephrops and light trawling have few differences, and are only differentiated by mesh size (slightly smaller to target Nephrops) and the proportions of fish to Nephrops when landing. Source: DAFS. In, Hislop, J.R.G (1986). The demersal fishery in the Clyde sea area. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Section B (Biological Sciences), 90: 423-43767.

Data for the following graphs were gathered from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS) from 1960 to 1984, and the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA) from 1987 to 2006.

The boundaries of ICES sub-areas, showing the limits of the Clyde as defined by DAFS between 1960 and 1984. Limits after 1987 are not so clear, but likely represent a similar or larger area as data is gathered from landings at ports within the Firth of Clyde. Source: Hislop, J.R.G (1986). The demersal fishery in the Clyde sea area. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburth Section B (Biological Sciences), 90: 423-43767.

Landings of cod from Firth of Clyde 1960-2006. Source: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS) and Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA).

Landings of cod exhibited rapid increases in the early 1960s, which continued as effort increased, remaining fairly stable and consistent with total effort until the early 1980s when sharp declines began. Between 1968 and 2006, landings have decreased by over 99%. In the 1950s, cod up to 1.5 metres long were reported20, but by the 1970s, sizes had fallen, with the larger specimens generally only 1 metre in length (Interviews, pers. comm.). Today, cod are only occasionally caught, and often weigh as little as 2.25 kg (Tony Wass, pers. comm.).

Measures were put into place in 2001 in an attempt to protect spawning cod stocks. These include limiting Nephrops trawlers to 25 days at sea per month, and closing an area in the south of the Clyde from 14th February to 30th April as it is a significant cod spawning area[i]. A recent decommissioning scheme has decreased the number of whitefish trawlers, but the number of Nephrops trawlers – with their smaller mesh size and decreased selectivity – has remained stable. According to ICES in 2006, Clyde cod populations are in serious danger, their spawning stock biomass has reached an historic low, and their reproductive capability has been reduced as the stocks continue to be over-exploited[ii].

Landings of whiting from Firth of Clyde 1960-2006. Source: DAFS and SFPA.

Whiting have also undergone a drastic decrease since the 1960s, with landings peaking in 1967 and not being met since within the Clyde area. A decline of over 99% has occurred in whiting landings, with a noticeable decline beginning in the early 1970s and continuing until the present day. Haddock, on the other hand has seen greater fluctuations in landings, but has still exhibited an overall decline of over 95% since the 1960s, although a peak in landings occurred as late as 1998.

Changes in effort over the years have occurred and to a certain extent may have been responsible for large catches of cod, whiting and haddock for some years in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, as these species are intensively exploited, variations in catches are mostly dependent on recruitment of younger fish, therefore reflecting the status of the stocks67. Whiting and haddock are also at historically low abundance, continuing to be caught in Nephrops trawls[iii], [iv].

Landings of haddock from Firth of Clyde 1960-2006. Source: DAFS and SFPA.

Economic factors have an important role to play in deciding which species are targeted by fishers. Along with cod, hake was one of the most important species in terms of value in the 1980s, with up to 57% of the total Scottish landings of hake taken in Clyde waters in the early 1980s67.

Landings of hake from Firth of Clyde 1960-2006. Source: DAFS and SFPA.

Saithe catches were also largely driven by economic factors in the 1970s and 80s. Landings of saithe reached a peak of over 6500 tonnes in 1973, which accounted for over 50% of demersal landings in the Clyde that year67. This was driven by the increased prices paid for all whitefish at this time, due to the establishment of EEZs which closed off many traditional distant water fishing grounds to British fleets. The price of saithe was particularly high, encouraging greater landings. However, in recent years the catch has been so low as to account for more than just economic forces at work.

Landings of saithe from Firth of Clyde 1960-2006. Source: DAFS and SFPA.

Flounder landings have also declined, with zero landings reported from 1996 to 2006 and no evidence of set quotas for the area. Catches increased up until the late 1970’s, but had fallen to zero less than 20 years later.

Landings of flounder from Firth of Clyde 1960-2006. Source: DAFS and SFPA.

The low abundance of plaice in the Firth of Clyde was questioned more than a century ago by Thomas Fulton, who noticed a substantial difference in the number of flat fish between the Clyde and the Firth of Forth, particularly for plaice36. This led to, in part, to the closure of some of the Clyde grounds to trawling, which lasted nearly 80 years, until trawling for Nephrops was permitted66. It is possible then, that the low abundance of plaice in the mid-20th century was due to declines witnessed 50-60 years before. However, this decrease became more severe during the 20th century, leading to extremely low catches by the turn of the 21st century.

Landings of plaice from Firth of Clyde 1960-2006. Source: DAFS and SFPA.

The trend indicated by all of these demersal fishery graphs, is one of gradual decline until the 1980s, then a severe decline into the 1990s and beginning of the 21st century, with little sign of recovery. Many species are at an all time low level, even though there are few, if any, directed fisheries in the Clyde as almost all Clyde-based mobile fisheries now fish almost exclusively for Nephrops[v]. The only way these declines can be halted is if Nephrops fisheries are reduced and restricted to certain areas.

Current management measures are failing to halt declines of these stocks76.

<< 1950 on emerging fisheries / herring decline ||Main Index ||1950 on - Scallops & Nephrops >>

[i] ICES WGNSDS Report (2006). Annex 9: Quality Handbook Annex: WGNSDS- Cod VIa.

[ii] ICES Advice (2006). Cod in Division VIa (West of Scotland) 5.4.21.

[iii] ICES Advice (2006). Whiting in Division VIa (West of Scotland) 5.4.25.

[iv] ICES Advice (2006). Haddock in Division VIa (West of Scotland) 5.4.23.

[v] Watson, J.M. and Bryson, J.T (2003). The Clyde inshore fishery study: key features. Seafish Industry Authority, Edinburgh, UK.

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