West coast USA parallels West coast Scotland

sardinesGovernments and commercial fisheries sectors around the world are all too often focussed on short term financial gain rather than the impact on marine fish stocks and the marine food web – this can be exemplified by fisheries mismanagement on the West coasts of the USA and Scotland.

Scientists in the USA are concerned that officials waited too long to order a ban on U.S. Pacific sardine fishing that goes into effect July 1 this year.

For years governments failed to address the impact of destructive forms of commercial fishing in Scottish waters.

One of the most spectacular fisheries collapses in U.S. history occurred off the West Coast in the 1950s, when hundreds of boats severely overfished a Pacific sardine population already in decline from a natural down-cycle. The resulting crash decimated the largest fishery in the Western Hemisphere and so depressed sardine populations that they did not recover for nearly 40 years.

According to a Scottish Government report, the decision to open up the Clyde to trawling in the early 1960s was decisive in radically altering the ecosystem from one which contained a number of different commercial species of harvestable size to one no longer capable of supporting a commercial fin fishery.

The dire state of the sardine population is a cautionary tale about overharvesting these and other forage fish that are a critical part of the marine food web.

The situation in the Clyde is such that 90% of the fish population is below minimum landing size and most of that is comprised of juvenile whiting.

It would appear that rather than learn the lessons of the past, government’s seem bent on not only repeating them but in doing so, take destructive fishing to new levels.

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