Fish Stocks are ‘Healthy’ says South West Expert

Plymouth’s Sutton Harbour Master and Fisheries Manager has welcomed figures which show the amount of cod, haddock and whiting landed into the three major South West fishing ports increased by 10 per cent last year - showing that fish stocks are “healthy and being fished at sustainable levels”. The annual UK Sea Fisheries Statistics 2013 report was published today (Sep 25th 2014) by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). The figures show Plymouth had the second highest quantity of landings in England last year, with 11,600 tonnes of fish including shellfish landed during 2013, with a value of £13.5million. 

This figure was second only to Brixham, which saw 13,500 tonnes of fish landed with a value of £24million. The third largest landing quantities in the South West were in Newlyn. 

Fish landed at many South West ports is often transported to be sold through Plymouth Fisheries, England’s second largest fresh fish market based at Sutton Harbour. 

While the figures published by the MMO today show a small decrease in overall landing figures nationwide, the amount of demersal fish being landed – fish living on or near the seabed and feeding on the bottom, including haddock, cod and whiting – has increased by 10 per cent to its highest level in 10 years.  The amount of demersal fish landed into the three major South West ports now stands at 13,300 tonnes – an increase on the figure for 2012. 

Pete Bromley said: “With nearly all the demersal species caught in UK waters being sold through the auction system in the UK, this report confirms that fish stocks in the Western Approaches are fit, healthy, and being fished at a sustainable level, with landings equalling the allowable catch for most major species. “In 2016, decisions taken as a result of the reform of the common fisheries policy will herald an end to the wasteful practice of over quota fish being dumped at sea, and with a promised increase in quotas, the future for the South West fishing industry is looking bright. 

“Plymouth Fisheries continues to play a vital role handling fish landed in ports all over the South West, and Sutton Harbour Holdings plc continues to invest in the facilities in Plymouth to guarantee continued support to an industry which is vital to the South West economy.”  

Plymouth Fisheries is viewed by many as the fisheries hub of the region, sustaining over 600 direct and indirect jobs. The fish market sells more than 6,000 tonnes of fish every year – of which 75 per cent arrives by road from fishermen across the South West who have landed their catch at another port but choose to drive to Plymouth to ensure it will sell for the best price.  They do this because Plymouth Fisheries is unique in the region by offering an electronic auction system – operated by Plymouth Trawler Agents – which ensures fishermen receive a fair price for their catch.  

Overall, landing figures published by the MMO today show a decrease on the figures for 2012, when Plymouth had the highest quantity of landings in England with 15,748 tonnes, and follow the national trend which has seen a drop of 1 per cent in quantity across the UK, with the overall figures for fish landed by UK vessels down to 624,000 tonnes, and a 7 per cent drop in value down to £718million. 

The amount of pelagic fish being landed – fish living near the surface or in the water column of coastal, ocean and lake waters, such as mackerel – has dropped by 3 per cent nationally, and shellfish landings are down by 6 per cent. Pelagic fish make up the majority of fish landed in Plymouth, but pelagic and shellfish landings are not sold through Plymouth fish market.

Pete Bromley added: “It’s important to factor in that landing statistics only refer to the port where fish has been landed, not where it has been sold. Pelagic fish and shellfish are often landed abroad or to ports outside the South West, and smaller port landings are not included in this annual report, as they are published later in the year. A lot of these landings are sold through Plymouth Fisheries, which continues to thrive and grow.” 

Andy Beattie, acting Chief Executive of the MMO, said: “We are pleased to see that demersal species have increased to the highest level seen for more than a decade. Landings of pelagic species have fallen slightly, but we continue to work closely with fishermen to help keep fisheries open for as long as possible, while ensuring stocks are maintained for the future.”

The statistics follow an announcement by Sutton Harbour Holdings plc earlier this year that it was investing in a vital new £1.2million ice production facility at Plymouth Fisheries. Working with Plymouth Trawler Agents Ltd, the project is being part funded by a £400,000 grant from the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), which is administered by the MMO. The new ice plant will enable Plymouth Fisheries to run four separate machines capable of producing 30 tonnes of ice over a 24hr period, and forms a crucial part of Sutton Harbour Holdings plc’s ongoing investment in developing the harbour and improving the overall facilities at the fish market.