There Aren’t Enough Fish! A Wake Up Call for UK Government

Chilean_purse_seineThe United Nations reports that over 70% of the world’s fisheries are either ‘fully exploited’, ‘over exploited’ or ‘significantly depleted’. While fisheries continue to crash around the world, the UK government continue to advise the public to increase our fish consumption as part of a healthy diet. A recent report from scientists at the University of York suggest wild fish stocks cannot sustain us at the recommended levels of consumption.

For centuries, the marine environment has been considered to have a limitless supply of fish to feed the billions relying on it for protein or as a main source of income. While the health benefits associated with seafood is well recognised by the Food Standards Agency, there is a notable gap between government guidelines and scientific advice as wild fish landings continue to decrease.

In a recent study published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, Dr. Ruth Thurstan and Professor Callum Roberts used historical fisheries data and population estimates to show that fish availability per person, both in the UK and worldwide, supply just one fifth of the two portions per week advice. Only rapid growth in fish farming has shielded consumers from the consequences of overfishing and human population increase.

Professor Roberts explains, “Many aquaculture operations inflict heavy environmental costs on wild fish stocks and coastal ecosystems, such as habitat loss, pollution, disease and pests. To be viable in the long-term and help feed the world, there has to be a Blue Revolution in fish farming to sustainable production methods.”

Europe currently imports 55% of the fish it consumes and America imported 91% in 2013. However, masking the shortfall through an increase in imports and aquaculture activity still only equates to a figure of four fifths.

Dr Thurstan states, “These findings are a wake-up call to the UK government that our national health aspirations have to be considered on a global stage, and that we need to think carefully about the implications of promoting greater fish consumption in a world where many people are already protein deficient.”

Ruth H. Thurstana, Callum M. Roberts, ‘The past and future of fish consumption: Can supplies meet healthy eating recommendations’, Marine Pollution Bulletin, DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.09.016. Visit http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X1400608

Photo Credit: C. Ortiz Rojas – http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/fish2172.htm

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Kira Coley
​​​​I am a freelance writer specialising in science, technology and the environment. My work has featured in many of the top professional industry magazines including the 'Marine Technology Reporter', 'Marine Scientist', 'ECO Magazine' and 'International Ocean Systems'. I write to share the fascinating wonders of science with the world and highlight the importance of technological advancements in this era of science, discovery and exploration. I have worked in many locations as a marine researcher including Sicily, Madagascar and Scotland, as well as for charities, NGOs and marine technology specialists all over the UK. I have also been recently appointed as a lecturer in science communication at the University of Portsmouth. Follow me on twitter @KiraMColey

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1 Response

  1. Avatar Ben Carter says:

    2 portions of fish a week?!?!?! How do the government advise this? Firstly, that’s a lot of fish. Secondly it is definitely not necessary in our diet. I don’t eat fish and I seem pretty darn healthy. Trust science. Not people. Nice article. More please.

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