Global fish consumption hits record high By Mark Kinver Science and environment reporter, BBC News
The global consumption of fish has hit a record high, reaching an average of 17kg per person, a UN report has shown.
Fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 145m tonnes in 2009, providing about 16% of the population's animal protein intake.
The findings published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also stressed that the status of global fish stocks had not improved.
It said that about 32% were overexploited, depleted or recovering.
"That there has been no improvement in the status of stocks is a matter of great concern," said Richard Grainger, one of the report's authors and FAO senior fish expert.
"The percentage of overexploitation needs to go down, although at least we seem to reaching a plateau," he observed.
The authors added that it was estimated that the level of overexploitation had increased slightly since 2006, but 15% of the stocks monitored by the FAO were either "underexploited" or "moderately exploited".
This meant that catches in these regions could increase in order to meet the demand for fish products.
The report also showed that fish continued to be the most-traded food commodity, worth US $102bn (£63bn) in 2008 - a nine percent increase on the previous 12 months.
China remained the largest fish-producing nation, producing 47.5m tonnes in 2008 (32.7m tonnes from aquaculture and 14.8m tonnes from capture fisheries).
Globally, the data showed capture fisheries produced about 90m tonnes, with 80m tonnes from marine waters and a record 10m tonnes from inland waters.
The authors said aquaculture remained the fastest growing animal food-producing sector, although growth rates were slowing.
Per capita supplies from the sector had increased from 0.7kg in 1970 to 7.8kg in 2008 - an average year-on-year growth rate of 6.6%.
Aquaculture was dominated by production from the Asia/Pacific region, accounting for 89% of global production and 79% in terms of value.
Closing the net
While aquaculture was set to become the main source for fish products in the near future, the authors were concerned about the growing percentage of marine fish stocks that were categorised as overexploited.
They said that most stocks of the top 10 commercial species, which accounted for almost a third of global catches, were fully exploited.
"Of the 23 tuna stocks, most are more or less fully exploited (possibly up to 60%), some are overexploited or depleted (possibly up to 35%) and only a few appear to be underexploited (mainly skipjack)," they wrote.
"In the long-term, because of the substantial demand for tuna and the significant overcapacity of tuna fishing fleets, the status of tuna stocks may deteriorate further if there is no improvement in their management."
They said another threat to the long-term sustainability of fish stock was illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing.
According to Illegal-Fishing.info, managed by think-tank Chatham House, IUU was worth up to $23.5bn a year.
In an effort to tackle the problem, the FAO established the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) that would require the "port state" to close its ports and ban the landing of fish of any vessel listed as being involved in IUU activities.
Last year, researchers writing in the journal Science warned that global measures to regulate the fishing industry lacked the capability to tackle illegal catches.
During a six-year study, they said that only one third of the vessels listed on IUU registers could be tracked.
The FAO report authors also highlighted another problem facing the world's fisheries: "high levels of unwanted and often unreported bycatch and discards... including the capture of ecologically important species".
"The latest estimate of global discards from fishing is about seven million tonnes per year," they said.
As a result, the UN agency will lead the "development of international guidelines on bycatch management and reduction of discards".
The publication of the report, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010, coincided with the opening of the 29th session of the UN Committee on Fisheries being held at the FAO's headquarters in Rome.
Richard Black | 15:20 UK time, Tuesday, 1 March 2011
More selective fishing tends to produce fewer discards
Everybody wants to do it: nobody is entirely sure how that should be done.
Discarding fish is, on one level, an outrageous practice; so surely stopping it is the right thing?
A byproduct of measures to keep fishing within sustainable limits, discarding works against sustainability by ensuring that a good proportion of what fishermen catch is thrown back into the water - usually dead - thereby meaning that much more has to be caught than actually ends up on our plates.
On another level, though, it's a necessary evil.
Without quotas or some other way of curbing the extraction of fish, history suggests that the oceans would be sucked empty.
And if fishermen catch outside their quota, they mustn't make money from it or else catching outside the quota becomes profitable - ergo, the fish has to be thrown away.
That's why both fishermen and conservationists have welcomed European Commission ideas on regulating discarding out of existence; and why they are warning that doing so, while safeguarding both stocks and livelihoods, is far from a simple matter.
(The EC document was not made public, but you can read it below.)
The commission's basic idea is to find a mix of measures to regulate the fishery that includes quotas, restrictions on "fishing effort" (for example by limiting the duration of the fishing season) and closer monitoring by electronic and human observers.
In the new world, quotas would be set for both intentional catch and bycatch (accidental take). So a boat targeting, say, haddock would be permitted to take cod as well, and to land it and sell it - up to a certain limit.
So far, this is very broad brush stuff; and it's not entirely clear whether the commission will eventually propose a "one size fits all" package across EU waters or whether it'll be left to each government to select a mix appropriate to its own fisheries.
Whatever the commission comes up with and whatever governments eventually decide, it's clear that other types of reform could also help make European fisheries a lot more sustainable than they are now.
More industrialised fisheries are associated with higher levels of bycatch, hence of discards
Many kinds of selective fishing gear have been developed, using ideas such as escape hatches for non-target species, grids to select fish for size, and excluder or includer panels based on how different species behave.
But fishermen have not always been enthusiastic about using them - even though they would reduce discards.
In part that's because some entail extra costs without yielding extra profit.
But in other cases, fishermen are clearly not taking even the simplest measures.
The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), which partly functions as the EU's scientific advisory body on fisheries, reported last year that boats in some EU waters were discarding 80% of the plaice and sole they caught.
"The high level of discarding in this fishery indicates a mismatch between the minimum landing size and the mesh size of the gear being used."
Although this is a dig at fishermen, it's also a dig at European regulators who have repeatedly elected not to mandate selective gear anything like as systematically as they could have done.
At the most extreme end, regulators could even mandate the end of trawling and the adoption of other methods that are inherently more selective.
A review of global discard data for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2005 observed:
"Shrimp and demersal finfish trawl fisheries account for over 50% of total estimated discards while representing approximately 22% of total recorded landings..."
The same review hinted at the industry's optimum structure, concluding:
"Small-scale fisheries generally have lower discard rates than industrial fisheries..."
Amid all the comments and lobbying noises and observations flying around at the moment, it's worth perhaps returning to the basic reason why discarding exists.
It's a byproduct of regulations that had to be introduced because the fishing industry has historically taken more from the seas than the seas can sustainably provide.
High Level Meeting on banning discards Brussels 1 March 2011
Our fisheries management system is not delivering a sustainable management of our resources and, in addition, incentivises fishermen to discard important quantities fish. The reasons for discarding are EU and national legislation, which are not well suited for EU waters, where the majority of catches are from mixed fisheries, as well as financial interests of the fishing industry to keep only more valuable fish on board.
The Commission has therefore invited Members of the European Parliament, Ministers and the Court of Auditors to a political discussion in order to focus on how to end discards in the context of the CFP Reform.
2. INTRODUCING A DISCARD BAN
2.1. TIMING AND FISHERIES COVERED The Commission is considering a mandatory discard ban as part of the CFP reform covering vulnerable and economically important species. The discard ban is a natural follow up of the high grading ban already in place in all EU waters. This could take place in a phased in approach as of the first year of implementation of the reformed CFP.
* Year one of new CFP: The main pelagic species would be covered by a discard ban (mackerel, herring, blue whiting, etc.)
* Year two of new CFP: the main target species in demersal mixed fisheries (cod, hake, nephrops, sole etc.) as well as by caught species in these fisheries (haddock, whiting, hake, plaice etc.) would come under the discard ban
* Year two of new CFP: Mediterranean fisheries would apply the discard ban
Other species could be included in the discard ban in successive steps in the years to follow. Under the discard ban all catches of the target species and all by-catches of non target species would have to be landed and counted against quotas. Scientific advice would greatly improve as all fish removed from the stocks will be counted and fed into the advisory process.
Single-stock fisheries (for example pelagics like herring, mackerel) could remain to be managed by quotas combined with an obligation to land all catches.
2. IMPLEMENTING A DISCARD BAN IN MIXED FISHERIES
2.1. AN EFFORT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM * Mixed fisheries (whitefish, flatfish, Nephrops etc) could be managed by effort only; * For mixed fisheries current relative stability keys in quotas would be expressed as effort shares without affecting relative stability. This calculation would be based on current relative stability, not on deployed effort in recent years; * All catches to be landed and time at sea to be counted against effort.
A discard ban under an effort system will remove any incentive for the fishing industry to under declare or falsely declare catches or to falsely declare catch areas, as landings are no longer counted against quotas. Such a discard ban could have as flanking measures: 1. Controlling kw days at sea by VMS; 2. Obligation for vessels to move fishing grounds, real time closures and area closures for spawning stocks, vulnerable habitats or protecting juveniles.
2.2. A CATCH QUOTA SYSTEM * All catches are landed and counted against quotas; * Council would have to designate a sufficient portion of all national quotas as national by-catch quotas; * or allow for quota transfers within an individual transferable quota system MS would have to allocate quotas to vessels according to likely catch composition of hauls, fishing trips or metiers.
Compliance to and control of a discard ban using catch quotas will only work with efficient enforcement systems implemented by Member States to guarantee its success, such as: 1. CCTV on all vessels above 12 meters, or observer schemes or other effective control methods by Member States, with EU co-funding 2. Obligation for vessels to move fishing grounds, real time closures and area closures for spawning stocks, vulnerable habitats or protecting juveniles, as well as discard avoidance measures 3. Extending the use of electronic logbooks and VMS 4. Improving landing controls with more personnel 5. Deterrent sanctions against discarding 6. Improving compliance by way of peer review
2.3. THE MARKETING SIDE OF BOTH SYSTEMS Both systems will need to be accompanied by marketing measures: minimum landing size to be replaced by minimum marketable sizes fishermen market the whole catch and keep part of proceeds (incentivising the sector to develop selective gear avoiding catches of undersized fish) as much fish as possible to be marketed for human consumption; marketing for fishmeal only allowed where human consumption market is not available
Examples: [glow=red,2]* in whitefish fisheries, once 'targeted' cod quotas are exhausted, all cod catches are counted against by-catch quotas for cod; the whitefish fishery on haddock, whiting, saithe or Nephrops could continue with by-catches of cod until TAC exhaustion is 100%;
* once the national cod quota and by catch quota is exhausted all metiers where cod is by-catch would be closed by MS, so fishing for haddock, whiting, saithe etc. would need to be closed;
* once the national sole quota and the by-catch quota for sole are exhausted all metiers where sole is a by-catch would be closed by MS, so fishing for plaice, lemon sole, brill etc. would need to be closed even if quotas are not yet exhausted
* The above procedure would be extended year by year covering all other species that would fall under the discard ban[/glow]
2.4. INDUSTRY AND PRODUCER ORGANISATIONS In a regionalised policy, industry and Producer Organisations become active players of a locally based effort or quota management.
* industry in self regulation should choose best selective gears, discard avoiding measures and the most adequate fishing strategy for specific fisheries based on objectives established at EU level taking into account the minimum market sizes
* Producer Organisations need to plan fishing activities and take decisions such as closing a fishery once effort or quotas are used up.
3. CONCLUSION Implementing a discard ban is possible, both under an effort management system and under a catch quota system, with both having advantages and disadvantages.
Participants to the meeting are asked to express their views on the issues discussed in this non paper. +++
'Unethical' fish discards must end, says EU commission
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News
The European Commission has set out ideas for ending fish discards.
Currently, EU boats in the North Sea have to throw away up to half of what they catch to stay within their quotas.
Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki proposes instead to regulate fleets through limits on fishing time and greater use of measures such as CCTV.
She discussed the ideas with delegates from EU member states in Brussels on Tuesday, with the aim of finalising plans later in the year.
She hopes to introduce a discard ban as part of a reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 2013.
UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said the atmosphere had been positive.
"We are all agreed - tackling the waste of discards must be a top priority," he said.
"Reform of the CFP will help, but we shouldn't wait another two years - we need to get on and deliver discard reductions now by effective practical measures."
During the meeting, Ms Damanaki told ministers that business as usual was not an option.
"I consider discarding of fish unethical, a waste of natural resources and a waste of fishermen's effort," she said.
"If we continue with our policy, then we will soon face a situation where the production capacity of marine ecosystems is at risk; [and] discarding will erode the economic basis of our fishermen and our coastal regions."
Consumers, she warned, would then turn away from fish because it would be seen as a tainted product.
In the UK, a petition started by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall asking EU leaders to "stop this unacceptable and shameful practice" is said to have gathered more than 650,000 signatures.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said the petition and the associated Fish Fight campaign had over-simplified the issue.
"The proposal from Maria Damanaki for a discards ban amounts to a draconian step too far," he said.
"It is a knee-jerk response to populist TV coverage which has accurately described the problem, but which offers no solutions."
But Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said reforming the system would work for fishermen, not against them.
"Fishermen in Scotland and everywhere else want to be able to land and sell pretty much all the fish they catch," he told the BBC.
"We're talking about millions of tonnes of prime cod, haddock and coly - the bulk of the discard is prime catch that's over quota, and that has to stop.
"The long-term aim is to enable fishermen to land more fish, not less."
Ms Damanaki also reassured fishermen that there would not be an end to their livelihoods.
The commission's ideas are sketched out in a four-page document - obtained by BBC News - that explores ways of constraining fishing if discards are banned.
"The reasons for discarding are EU and national legislation, not well suited for EU waters, where the majority of catches are from mixed fisheries, as well as financial interests of the fishing industry to keep only more valuable fish on board," it says.
Currently, fishermen have to discard fish when they exceed their quota for that species, or when they net fish that are too young or too small.
Ms Damanaki suggests:
* controlling "fishing effort", by limiting the amount of time boats can spend at sea and the places where they can fish * counting all fish landed against quotas * closing "mixed fisheries" when the maximum quota of one species in it has been caught * expanding the use of CCTV, observers, electronic logbooks and monitoring of ports
Although conservation groups are keen to see discarding end, they also have concerns that any new regulatory framework must not open up a free-for-all.
"Banning discarding would be a very good step forward in the quest to stop overfishing in EU waters and by the EU fleet," said Uta Bellion, director of the Pew Environment Group's European Marine Programme.
"However, this needs to be coupled with catch limits that follow scientific advice based on the precautionary principle, and effective monitoring and control," she told BBC News.
The UK government want the commission to look at projects in British waters that have succeeded in reducing the volume of discards.
Scotland's Conservation Credits Scheme restricts fishing gear and obliges skippers to call a closure if they find they are catching juveniles or spawning fish. In return, they gain additional fishing days.
The UK and Scottish governments have also been trialling a Catch Quota Scheme for cod, under which all fish landed count towards a quota.
Boats have to use Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) equipment.
Mr Benyon's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wants the revamped CFP to be less prescriptive, encouraging each government to adopt measures appropriate to its own fleet and fishery.
Richard Black | 14:50 UK time, Thursday, 14 April 2011
Just how .......d are the world's oceans?
I've put the dots in that sentence so you can insert the word of your choice.
According to a high-level seminar of experts in Oxford earlier this week, there's one word starting with the letter S that would fit quite well, a longer option beginning Kn - and a few more that are even stronger in meaning.
The S option, by the way, is not "secured".
Scientists are famous for staying in silos and never peering over the edge at what's going on in the world around them.
What marked this week's event - convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean - as something a bit different was the melange of expertise in the same room.
Fisheries experts traded studies with people studying ocean acidification; climate modellers swapped data with ecologists; legal wonks formulated phrases alongside toxicologists.
They debated, discussed, queried, swapped questions and answers. Pretty much everyone said they'd learned something new - and something a bit scary.
Warnings on the impacts of issues such as overfishing, pollution and habitat loss aren't new. With some of them, scientific findings have translated into a pressure for change, and indeed to actual change - as seen this week, for example, with the European Union's adoption of new rules on illegal fishing.
But the various threats tend to be considered in isolation.
By contrast, the idea behind this project is to look at what happens under a combination of threats, and ask what this more comprehensive picture demands in the way of policy changes.
It's fairly well-known now, for example, that the impacts of climate change on coral reefs can be delayed by keeping the reef healthy - by preventing local pollution, keeping fish stocks high and blocking invasive species.
So a policy to reduce climate impacts can mean curbing fishing or pollution, which might in turn mean changing farming practices to prevent fertiliser run-off.
In places, filter-feeding fish are apparently living in sediments containing so many particles of plastic that it makes up half of each mouthful. Other pollutants such as endocrine-disrupting ("gender-bending") chemicals gather on the plastic surfaces - which obviously can be harmful to the fish.
So a "healthy fisheries" policy might again involve regulating pollutants.
If the ways in which these various threats combine was a central theme of the seminar, another was the way in which trends appear to be speeding up.
Many researchers noted that in their field of study, the pace of decline and degradation exceeded even the worst projections made just a few decades ago.
The conclusions of the seminar will be released later this year. One of the aims is to get some serious commitments on ocean issues at the Rio+20 summit next year.
And here lies the biggest challenge for this project - especially in a world where the number of "other Cassandras", to use a phrase from the JM Kaplan Fund's Conn Nugent, appears to have grown way beyond the public's appetite for messages of doom.
Turtles are among the animals facing multiple threats - fishing nets, habitat loss, pollution...
For scientists, the route from research findings to policy change can appear simple.
They tell politicians and the general public how it is, the public gets concerned, and politicians then reform the system so as to halt the destruction - partly because it's the right thing to do, partly because the public is telling them to.
Barry Gardiner MP, a leading light in the Globe International organisation of environmentally concerned parliamentarians and recently appointed as Labour leader Ed Miliband's special envoy on climate change, gave the scientists a condensed and forceful lesson in political realities.
Of 650-odd MPs in the UK Parliament, he said, there are perhaps 50 who would have any reason to pay attention to global tales of ocean decline; and only perhaps 10 who would find a political motive for taking up such an issue in the House.
[glow=red,2]"There has to be a level of political engagement, and that engagement has to be not by scientists coming with the best analysis there is and wagging your fingers and saying 'now go and get this sorted out', because no politician listens to this," he said.
"You've got to listen to the politician and what his problems are, and them come with solutions."[/glow]
This full-frontal assault on assumptions provoked some shocked scientific faces around the table; and Jelle Bijma, a biogeochemist from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, said it...
[glow=red,2]"...makes you feel like a moron... what keeps politicians from operating with proper minds?"[/glow]
But to people used to the cut and thrust of lobbying, some who have spent 40 years working for environmental progress, it wasn't such a surprise - Josh Reichert, head of the Pew Environment Group, likening the current situation to...
[glow=red,2]"...driving towards the edge of a cliff while taking copious notes along the way.
"For years the science has gotten better, and the problem has become worse. Better science will enhance our understanding of the dilemma we face but will not resolve it - we depend on government to do that, and the challenge we face is getting government to act."[/glow]
When the final report is written, its conclusions are likely to include (however worded) a warning that the oceans are in deep trouble, that decline is speeding up, and that impacts of this are already being felt.
It will probably outline many dimensions of the issue, and make a comprehensive set of recommendations for politicians - and perhaps, for the public and the corporate sector.
The major challenge, as always, will be getting the message heard and acted upon.
For all the understanding of links between various threats out there in the oceans, the most important link is still between scientific findings and political action - and it's the one where progress remains most conspicuously lacking.
ScienceDaily (May 31, 2011) — Baby clownfish use hearing to detect and avoid predator-rich coral reefs during the daytime, but new research from the University of Bristol demonstrates that ocean acidification could threaten this crucial behavior within the next few decades.
Since the Industrial Revolution, over half of all the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels has been absorbed by the ocean, making pH drop faster than any time in the last 650,000 years and resulting in ocean acidification. Recent studies have shown that this causes fish to lose their sense of smell, but a new study published in Biology Letters shows that fish hearing is also compromised.
Working with Professor Philip Munday at James Cook University, lead author Dr Steve Simpson of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol reared larvae straight from hatching in different CO2 environments.
"We kept some of the baby clownfish in today's conditions, bubbling in air, and then had three other treatments where we added extra CO2 based on the predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for 2050 and 2100," Dr Simpson said.
After 17-20 days rearing, Dr Simpson monitored the response of his juvenile clownfish to the sounds of a predator-rich coral reef, consisting of noises produced by crustaceans and fish.
"We designed a totally new kind of experimental choice chamber that allowed us to play reef noise through an underwater speaker to fish in the lab, and watch how they responded," Dr Simpson continued. "Fish reared in today's conditions swam away from the predator noise, but those reared in the CO2 conditions of 2050 and 2100 showed no response."
This study demonstrates that ocean acidification not only affects external sensory systems, but also those inside the body of the fish. The ears of fish are buried deep in the back of their heads, suggesting lowered pH conditions may have a profound impact on the entire functioning of the sensory system.
The ability of fish to adapt to rapidly changing conditions is not known. Dr Simpson said: "What we have done here is to put today's fish in tomorrow's environment, and the effects are potentially devastating. What we don't know is whether, in the next few generations, fish can adapt and tolerate ocean acidification. This is a one-way experiment on a global scale, and predicting the outcomes and interactions is a major challenge for the scientific community."
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Bristol.
1. Steve Simpson, Philip Munday, Matt Wittenrich, Rachel Manassa, Danielle Dixson, Monica Gagliano and Hong Yan. Ocean acidification erodes crucial auditory behaviour in a marine fish. Biology Letters, 2011;
Ocean Warming Detrimental to Inshore Fish Species, Australian Scientists Report
Banded morwong. (Credit: Rick Stuart-Smith, University of Tasmania)
ScienceDaily (May 20, 2011) — Australian scientists have reported the first known detrimental impact of southern hemisphere ocean warming on a fish species.
The findings of a study published in Nature Climate Change indicate negative effects on the growth of a long-lived south-east Australian and New Zealand inshore species -- the banded morwong.
Scientific monitoring since 1944 by CSIRO at Maria Island, off the east coast of Tasmania, showed that surface water temperatures in the Tasman Sea have risen by nearly 2°C over the past 60 years. This warming, one of the most rapid in the southern hemisphere oceans, is due to globally increasing sea-surface temperatures and local effects caused by southward extension of the East Australian Current.
"Generally, cold-blooded animals respond to warming conditions by increasing growth rates as temperatures rise," CSIRO marine ecologist Dr Ron Thresher, a co-author of the study with colleagues from the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, said.
"But theory and laboratory studies show that this has a limit. As temperatures get too high, we begin to see increased signs of stress, possibly eventually leading to death. We are looking at whether climate change is beginning to push fish past their physiological limits.
"By examining growth across a range that species inhabit, we found evidence of both slowing growth and increased physiological stress as higher temperatures impose a higher metabolic cost on fish at the warm edge of the range.
"In this case, off northern New Zealand, ocean warming has pushed the banded morwong -- which inhabits temperate reefs in waters 10-50m deep -- past the point where increasing temperatures are beneficial to growth."
Dr Thresher said climate change can affect species directly by influencing how their bodies function, their growth and behaviour and indirectly through environmental effects on ecosystems. To assess the impacts of this temperature increase on a marine species, the research team analysed long-term changes in the growth rates of the banded morwong (Cheilodactylus spectabilis).
The bony structures fish use for orientation and detection of movement -- called otoliths -- have annual growth rings which were measured for changes. Similar to growth rings in trees, they can be counted to indicate a fish's age and annual growth rate, estimated by measuring distances between each new ring.
According to a co-author of the paper, University of Tasmania (UTas) researcher Dr Jeremy Lyle, banded morwong were used in the study because they can live for almost 100 years and, as adults, they stay in essentially the same area even if the water temperature shifts. They have also been the subject of fisheries studies conducted by UTas researchers.
"Growth rates of young adult banded morwong in SE Australia have increased significantly since 1910 at four sample sites," Dr Lyle said. "The team from CSIRO and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (UTas) compared these changes to temperature trends across the species' distribution. They observed increased growth for populations in the middle of the species' range in Australian waters where temperatures have increased, but are still relatively cool, but growth slowed with rising temperatures at the warmer northern edge of the species' range in New Zealand waters.
Dr Lyle said the study showed that growth performance in banded morwong began to suffer above average annual water temperatures of about 17°C.
"Preliminary field and laboratory studies suggested that this decline in growth may be related to temperature induced physiological stress, resulting in increased oxygen consumption and reduced ability to sustain swimming activity."
The paper's other co-authors were: a post-doctoral fellow with CSIRO who is now with Aarhus University in Denmark, Dr Anna Neuheimer; and, Dr Jayson Semmens from UTas. The research was conducted through CSIRO's Climate Adaptation Flagship and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, with funding from an Australian Government Endeavour Awards Fellowship and the Winnifred Violet Scott Trust.
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by CSIRO Australia.
1. A. B. Neuheimer, R. E. Thresher, J. M. Lyle, J. M. Semmens. Tolerance limit for fish growth exceeded by warming waters. Nature Climate Change, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1084
More than half of tuna species at risk of extinction, say conservationists
IUCN study shows three species are threatened with extinction, while two more will be under threat without action to help them
* Press Association * guardian.co.uk, Thursday 7 July 2011 19.00 BST
Five out of the eight tuna species are at risk of extinction, conservationists warned today, as they called for urgent action to tackle over-fishing.
The latest assessment for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) showed that three species are threatened with global extinction, while two more will be under threat without action to help them.
A study, published in the journal Science, which looks at all "scombrid" fish, which include tuna and mackerel, and billfishes, which include swordfish and marlins, found that seven of the 61 known species were under threat.
The study said some of the species were heavily over-fished, with little interest in conserving them because of the high commercial value of the catch.
There were also difficulties in regulating the multinational fisheries which exploit the stocks.
IUCN experts warned that all three bluefin tuna species – southern, Atlantic and Pacific – were susceptible to collapse because of pressure from fishing for the high-value fish.
Southern bluefin tuna are already critically endangered, the highest category of risk, and Atlantic bluefin are endangered, the assessment for the IUCN red list of threatened species found.
Bigeye tuna are vulnerable to extinction, while yellowfin and albacore tuna are close to being under threat, or will be threatened with extinction if conservation measures are not put in place to turn their fortunes around.
Among other species, blue and white marlin were both assessed as being vulnerable to extinction, putting them in the third of the three most serious categories for threatened species and at risk of dying out globally.
Dr Kent Carpenter, manager of IUCN's marine biodiversity unit and an author of the study, said: "All three bluefin tuna species are susceptible to collapse under continued excessive fishing pressure.
"The southern bluefin has already essentially crashed, with little hope of recovery.
"If no changes are made to current fishing practices, the western Atlantic bluefin stocks are at risk of collapse as they are showing little sign that the population is rebuilding following a significant reduction in the 1970s."
Most of the economically valuable species such as tuna are at the top of the marine food chain, and their decline could have negative impacts on other species.
They are also long-lived, with slower reproductive rates which means populations take longer to recover.
Last year, proposals were made to have Atlantic bluefin tuna listed as endangered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), temporarily stopping the trade in the species.
But attempts to list bluefin tuna, a sushi delicacy in Japan, as an "appendix I" species were defeated by a large majority of countries at the Cites meeting in March 2010.
The study published today said the only way to save southern and Atlantic bluefin tuna was to shut down the fisheries until stocks were rebuilt, although to do so would encourage illegal fishing.
Strong deterrents would be needed, such as controlling international trade in tuna through the Cites scheme, the scientists suggested.
Jean-Christophe Vie, deputy director of the IUCN's global species programme, said: "Temporarily shutting down tuna fisheries would only be a part of a much-needed recovery programme.
"Scientific finding should not be discarded in order to maintain short-term profit. Marine life and jobs for future generations are both at stake."
ScienceDaily (Sep. 9, 2011) — A team of leading marine scientists from around the world is recommending an end to most commercial fishing in the deep sea, Earth's largest ecosystem. Instead, they recommend fishing in more productive waters nearer to consumers.
In a comprehensive analysis published online in the journal Marine Policy, marine ecologists, fisheries biologists, economists, mathematicians and international policy experts show that, with rare exceptions, deep-sea fisheries are unsustainable. The "Sustainability of deep-sea fisheries" study, funded mainly by the Lenfest Ocean Program, comes just before the UN decides whether to continue allowing deep-sea fishing in international waters, which the UN calls "high seas."
Life is mostly sparse in the oceans' cold depths, far from the sunlight that fuels photosynthesis. Food is scarce and life processes happen at a slower pace than near the sea surface. Some deep-sea fishes live more than a century; some deep-sea corals can live more than 4,000 years. When bottom trawlers rip life from the depths, animals adapted to life in deep-sea time can't repopulate on human time scales. Powerful fishing technologies are overwhelming them.
"The deep sea is the world's worst place to catch fish" says marine ecologist Dr. Elliott Norse, the study's lead author and President of the Marine Conservation Institute in Bellevue, Washington USA. "Deep-sea fishes are especially vulnerable because they can't repopulate quickly after being overfished."
The deep sea provides less than 1% of the world's seafood. But fishing there, especially bottom trawling, causes profound, lasting damage to fishes and life on the seafloor, such as deep-sea corals, these experts say.
Since the 1970s, when coastal fisheries were overexploited, commercial fishing fleets have moved further offshore and into deeper waters. Some now fish more than a mile deep.
"Because these fish grow slowly and live a long time, they can only sustain a very low rate of fishing," says author Dr. Selina Heppell, a marine fisheries ecologist at Oregon State University. "On the high seas, it is impossible to control or even monitor the amount of fishing that is occurring. The effects on local populations can be devastating."
The authors document the collapse of many deep-sea fishes around the world, including sharks and orange roughy. Other commercially caught deep-sea fishes include grenadiers (rattails) and blue ling.
"Fifty years ago no one ate orange roughy," said author Dr. Daniel Pauly, a fisheries biologist with the University of British Columbia (UBC). "In fact, it used to be called slimehead, indicating no one ever thought we would eat it. But as we've overfished our coastal species, that changed and so did the name."
Orange roughy take 30 years to reach sexual maturity and can live 125 years. Compared with most coastal fishes, they live in slow-motion. Unfortunately for them and the deep-sea corals they live among, they can no longer hide from industrial fishing.
"Fishing for orange roughy started in New Zealand and grew rapidly through the 1980s and 1990s. However, most of the fisheries were overexploited, and catch levels have either been dramatically reduced or the fisheries closed all together," says author Dr. Malcolm Clark, a New Zealand-based fisheries biologist. "The same pattern has been repeated in Australia, Namibia, the SW Indian Ocean, Chile and Ireland. It demonstrates how vulnerable deep-sea fish species can be to overfishing and potential stock collapse."
There are very few exceptions to unsustainable deep-sea fisheries around the world. One is the Azores fishery for black scabbardfish. There the Portuguese government has banned bottom trawling, which overfished black scabbardfish elsewhere. Azores fish are caught sustainably with hook and line gear from small boats. In most deep sea-fisheries, however, trawlers fish outside of nations' 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones, outside of effective government control.
"Deep-sea fisheries can be sustainable only where the fish population grows quickly and fisheries are small-scale and use gear that don't destroy fish habitat," said Dr. Norse. "With slow-growing fish, there's economic incentive to kill them all and reinvest the money elsewhere to get a higher return-on-investment. Killing off life in the deep sea one place after another isn't good for our oceans or economies. Boom-and-bust fisheries are more like mining than fishing," Dr. Norse said.
The lawlessness of the high seas adds to overfishing in the deep. So do nations' fisheries subsidies.
High seas trawlers receive some $162 million each year in government handouts, which amounts to 25% the value of the fleet's catch, according to Dr. Rashid Sumaila, an author and fisheries economist at UBC.
The authors of this Marine Policy paper say that the best policy would be to end economically wasteful deep-sea fisheries, redirect subsidies to help displaced fishermen and rebuild fish populations in productive waters closer to ports and markets, places far more conducive to sustainable fisheries.
"Instead of overfishing the Earth's biggest but most vulnerable ecosystem, nations should recover fish populations and fish in more productive coastal waters," says Dr. Norse. "Deep-sea fishes are in deep trouble almost everywhere we look. Governments shouldn't be wasting taxpayers' money by keeping unsustainable fisheries afloat."
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Marine Conservation Biology Institute.
1. Elliott A. Norse, Sandra Brooke, William W.L. Cheung, Malcolm R. Clark, Ivar Ekeland, Rainer Froese, Kristina M. Gjerde, Richard L. Haedrich, Selina S. Heppell, Telmo Morato, Lance E. Morgan, Daniel Pauly, Rashid Sumaila, Reg Watson. Sustainability of deep-sea fisheries. Marine Policy, 2012; 36 (2): 307 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2011.06.008
Post by Big Bunny on Sept 13, 2011 17:52:58 GMT -5
Major Threats Foreseen Due to Europe's Changing Marine Environments
This map shows coastal areas most vulnerable to erosion. (Credit: Project CLAMER and European Environment Agency (EEA), based on EU Eurosion project data)
ScienceDaily (Sep. 13, 2011) — Europeans face greater risk of illness, property damage and job losses because of the impacts of climate change on the seas around them, a new report suggests.
Worried citizens, whose biggest related top-of-mind concerns are sea level rise and coastal erosion, are taking personal actions to reduce carbon emissions. However, they largely blame climate change on other groups of people or nations and assign governments and industry responsibility for mitigating the problem (though they perceive government and industry as ineffective on the issue).
Those are among the conclusions after scientists synthesized an extensive collection of academic papers published since 1998 on climate change and Europe's marine environments, combined with a groundbreaking companion poll of Europeans on the issues, commissioned as part of Project CLAMER, a collaboration of 17 European marine institutes.
The 200-page synthesis of more than 100 EU-funded projects, the public survey, a new book based on the scientific findings, and a major new documentary film will be featured at CLAMER's wrap-up meeting Sept. 14-15 in Brussels.
The research distillation captures a suite of documented and forecast physical, chemical and biological marine changes with far-reaching consequences, including sea-level rise, coastal erosion, melting ice, storm frequency and intensity, physical changes including the North Atlantic circulation system, chemical changes such as acidification and deoxygenation, changes in marine life patterns, and the ultimate impacts of all this on humans -- both social and economic.
"We have amassed convincing and disturbing scientific evidence," says CLAMER co-ordinator Carlo Heip, Director of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. "We need to communicate it much better than we have. We must all heed the clear warnings of the hazards we face from what amounts to an uncontrolled experiment on the marine environment."
Co-ordinated by the Marine Board of the European Science Foundation, with contributions from more than 20 scientists, the CLAMER synthesis and related book, both available to the public Sept. 13 at www.clamer.eu, examine the environments of the North Sea, Baltic Sea, Arctic Ocean, North-East Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.
The synthesis notes that it is difficult to predict precisely the impacts of climate change or attach cost estimates to them. As well, some impacts will be widespread while others will vary from place to place.
That said, the societal impacts forecast include:
Rising illness risk
Says the CLAMER synthesis: "Millions of euros in health costs may result from human consumption of contaminated seafood, ingestion of water-borne pathogens, and, to a lesser degree, through direct occupational or recreational exposure to marine diseases. Climatic conditions are playing an increasingly important role in the transmission of these diseases."
More specifically, a team of researchers from Italy, the UK, Germany and the USA recently found, for example, that warmer ocean water is causing a proliferation of bacteria from a genus known as Vibrio, among the most dangerous of all bacterial pathogens, which can produce serious gastroenteritis, septicemia and cholera.
Some types of the bacteria and micro-algae are linked to shellfish-associated food poisoning deaths. Others harm marine animals, including mollusks and fish, "with major economic and environmental impacts," the researchers say.
Published in July in the Journal of the International Society for Microbial Ecology, the paper reports "an unprecedented increase in the number of bathing infections that have been associated with warm-water Vibrio species in Northwest Europe," and a "globally-increasing trend in their associated diseases."
While the study was based on seawater samples taken near the mouth of Europe's Rhine River and Britain's Humber River, "the increasing dominance of marine Vibrios, including pathogenic bacterial species, may very likely occur in other areas around the world."
Says the paper: "We provide evidence that Vibrios, including the (cholera) species, increased in dominance within the plankton-associated bacterial community of the North Sea during the past 44 years and that this increase is correlated significantly with climate induced sea surface warming during the same period. ... Ocean warming is favouring the spread of Vibrios." Property damage
Sea level rise, combined with higher waves being recorded in the North Atlantic and more frequent and severe storms, threaten up to 1 trillion Euros worth of Europe's physical assets within 500 m of the shore. And some 35% of Europe's GDP is generated within 50 km, the synthesis notes.
"Sea-level rise of 80 to 200 cm could wipe out entire countries ... causing sea floods, massive economic damage, large movements of populations from inundated areas, salinity intrusion and loss of wetlands including the ecosystem services that they provide."
More frequent and intense storms, meanwhile, are projected for Northern Europe, especially in a band running from the south of England through northern France, Denmark, northern Germany and Eastern Europe. Annual damages are expected to rise 21% in the UK, 37% in Germany and 44% across Europe as a whole, with a 104% rise in losses from 1-in-100 year storms.
Smaller fisheries and northward fish migrations
The CLAMER synthesis suggests the need for Europe's commercial fishery to reduce catches in places and make adjustments in others due to warming water, ocean acidification, and altered salinity and oxygen content.
"Some of the biggest [changes] will be required in Europe's seas, where temperatures are rising faster than the open North Atlantic," according to one research paper in the CLAMER collection.
Another warns of possible extinction of cod stocks in the Baltic Sea and calls for "a strategy ... to ensure the persistence of Baltic cod into the twenty-second century."
In the Mediterranean Sea, the catch of Aristeus antennatus (www.eol.org/pages/347714), a valuable shrimp, may experience "a true collapse" as changes in sea temperatures dramatically reduce, or even stop, the transfer of nutrients to deep waters.
Ominously, the biggest reductions in fish populations are forecast for low-latitude regions, many of which are already impoverished and face the greatest loss of agricultural production due to increased drought and storms. Researchers say the northern migration of some fish species poses a serious food security threat for poorer tropical countries where fish often constitute the largest source of protein.
The global pattern will apply to Europe, with the southern fisheries generally losing productivity while those in the north such as Greenland, Iceland and Norway are expected to gain.
With respect to the northward shift of fish species, the CLAMER synthesis notes one of the largest ever observed: the dramatic spread of the snake pipefish (Entelurus aequoreus -- www.eol.org/pages/223062). Prior to 2003, the fish was confined to the south and west of the British Isles. It now extends as far north as the Barents Sea and Spitzbergen, about 3,000 km to the north.
European attitudes toward climate change and the marine environment
The online survey of 10,000 residents of 10 European countries -- 1,000 from each of Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, Norway and Estonia -- reveals widespread concern about climate change, led by worries about sea level rise and coastal erosion.
Conducted in January by Brussels-based TNS Opinion, the survey, available to the public Sept. 13 at www.clamer.eu,is the first of its kind to focus on public perceptions of climate change impacts at the coast or in the sea. The poll findings are further explained by in-depth research, carried out by UEA, that involved UK public participants in group discussions.
* Asked to select from a list the single most serious problem facing the world, 18% of respondents chose climate change, the second highest choice. By comparison, poverty and lack of food and drinking water was chosen by 31%, international terrorism by 16%, and a global economic downturn by 12%.
* Concern about climate change is undiminished since a Sept. 2009 "Euro-Barometer" survey conducted for the European Union, despite the cool winter of 2010 in Northern Europe and "climategate" attacks on the IPCC and climate scientists.
* Some 86% of respondents said climate change is caused entirely, mainly or in part by human activities. Only 8% thought it was mainly or entirely caused by natural processes; in the United States, around 32-36% hold this view.
* Asked to name in their own words "an important environmental issue of relevance to the coastline or sea," only 4% of respondents used the words "climate change," with most citing pollution or overfishing. However, several climate change-related impacts were frequently mentioned, notably coastal erosion, sea level rise, melting ice caps and flooding. Coastal erosion and/or sea level rise and/or climate change were cited by 24% and 27% of Irish and UK respondents respectively.
* Asked to comment on a list of 15 environmental issues related to the coasts or seas, respondents from all 10 countries said they had the greatest confidence in their understanding of, and were most concerned about, coastal pollution, over-fishing and melting sea ice. In last place, only 14% said they were informed about acidification of the oceans. However, nearly 60% expressed concern about that issue.
* Italian respondents claimed the greatest concern about issues on the list; those from Norway, the Netherlands and Estonia, the least.
* Not surprisingly, respondents living near the sea claimed more understanding and concern about all 15 issues than those further inland. But in an apparent paradox, Italy, the most southerly of the 10 countries, expressed the most concern about melting Arctic sea ice while Norway, the most northerly, voiced the least concern.
* Surprisingly, citizens of the low-lying Netherlands worry less about inundation than the 10-nation average (61% of Dutch survey participants cited sea level rise and coastal flooding as concerns compared with 70% across all 10 countries). Meanwhile, Dutch participants trusted their government to deal with climate change adaptation issues more than citizens of the other countries studied. And, compared with all other countries, a lower proportion of Dutch respondents foresaw "major economic impacts from coastal flooding" within the next 20 years.
* The in-depth research complimenting the survey explains that public concern and awareness depends on the extent to which issues are visible, subject to personal experience, or pose a direct threat to human populations. More remote and distant impacts are shown to be of little relevance to people's lives (such as ocean acidification). Even where there are already tangible and fairly immediate local implications, people still find it hard to make a personal connection with many marine climate change impacts. For instance, even people living in high risk areas seldom see themselves as personally at risk from sea level rise and associated coastal flooding.
* Asked when they thought particular climate change impacts would become apparent, over half of respondents in all 10 countries said 'changes in the frequency of extreme weather events (e.g. storms),' are already being felt.
* The poll found a high correlation between respondents who said they are more "concerned" about the impacts of climate change and those who said they think its impacts will come fairly soon. Those who declared themselves "highly concerned" tended to think they could already see these impacts happening. Females were more likely than males to say that impacts are already apparent and, in general, those under 24 and older than 65 were least likely to say that impacts are already apparent.
* Respondents' estimates of sea level rise and temperature change were generally in accord with scientific forecasts, suggesting "some fundamental messages are reaching the public," the survey report says. Citizens were able to accurately characterize changes in sea temperature that have occurred over the past 100 years, and they gave realistic predictions of anticipated sea temperature change as well as sea level rise in this century.
* Scientists working in universities or for environmental NGOs are trusted as a source of information about climate change impacts in the seas and ocean far more than government scientists or those working for industry.Men distrust all of the organizations and individuals listed more than women do, and in almost all cases, people over 35 expressed more distrust than those aged between 18 and 34.
* Personal actions taken by European citizens in response to marine climate change issues are shown to focus more on mitigating climate change (such as reducing energy use and using sustainable forms of transport) than adapting to its impacts (through protecting homes from flooding for example).
* Public support for actions by national governments and the European Union is shown to be highest for policies to protect and enhance marine environments (for example through tightening controls on pollution) and reducing carbon emissions, while measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change are ranked the lowest.
The poll was commissioned as part of the CLAMER programme by the Marine Climate Change Centre (MC3) at Cefas, the University of East Anglia and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. Inclusion of respondents in the Republic of Ireland was co-sponsored by the Marine Institute, the Environment Protection Agency and the Heritage Council of Ireland.
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
Post by Big Bunny on Sept 15, 2011 23:57:58 GMT -5
Scientists: Bacteria spreading in warming oceans
* AP foreign, Friday September 16 2011
Associated Press= BRUSSELS (AP) — Warning: The warming of the world's oceans can cause serious illness and may cost millions of euros (dollars) in health care.
That is the alarm sounded in a paper released online Tuesday on the eve of a two-day conference in Brussels.
The 200-page paper is a synthesis of the findings of more than 100 projects funded by the European Union since 1998. It was produced by Project CLAMER, a collaboration of 17 European marine institutes.
The paper says the rising temperature of ocean water is causing a proliferation of the Vibrio genus of bacteria, which can cause food poisoning, serious gastroenteritis, septicemia and cholera.
"Millions of euros in health costs may result from human consumption of contaminated seafood, ingestion of waterborne pathogens, and, to a lesser degree, though direct occupational or recreational exposure to marine disease," says the paper. "Climatic conditions are playing an increasingly important role in the transmission of these diseases."
The paper also describes a host of other effects of ocean warming, both documented and forecast, including melting ice, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, increased storm intensity and frequency, along with chemical changes in the sea itself, including acidification and deoxygenation.
"What was striking to me was the enormous pile of evidence that things are already happening," Katja Philippart, a marine scientist at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research who was involved in putting the study together, told The Associated Press. "There is so much happening already. We are just in the midst of it."
It is not only the range of changes that has scientists concerned, but the speed of them.
"The biggest surprise to me is the fact that things are changing in the ocean much more rapidly than we thought was possible," said Carlo Heip, who is director of the same institute in the Netherlands.
In just a few decades, he said, the fish population of the North Sea has changed significantly, with larger species moving toward the arctic and smaller ones taking their place.
He said the concentration of Vibrio genus of bacteria has been observed since the 1960s. "When the temperature in the North Sea began to increase at the end of the 80s, the Vibrios began to increase. One of those Vibrios is the cholera species."
In the Baltic region in 2006, far more people got gastroenteritis than usual, Heip said. But he acknowledged that is anecdotal evidence only, and the extent of the danger is unclear.
Philippart said some of the effects could even themselves contribute to global warming.
The greater acidification of the ocean might mean that algae would be able to capture less carbon dioxide, she said. "Then there will be a further increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to greater warming."
Project CLAMER is holding a conference in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday.
Global warming brings exotic fish to British waters but at a cost
Cod, haddock and other fish traditionally eaten in UK are on the decline but warm water fish are thriving, study claims
* Steven Morris * guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 September 2011 20.00 BST
Red mullet numbers are set to increase as waters around the UK warm up, according to a government report. Photograph: Martin Child/Getty Images
Global warming is leading to "profound" population changes in most common fish species in waters off the UK, according to the first "big picture" study of rising sea temperatures.
Around three-quarters of the species affected have grown in numbers, the government-funded study claims.
While cold water-loving species such as cod and haddock fare badly, those that can do well in warmer conditions including hake, dab and red mullet are thriving.
Scientists behind the study of 100m fish hope the research will help governments and environmentalists plan ways of protecting and enhancing stocks.
Marine biologist Steve Simpson, who led the study, said researchers looked at 28 years of data, mostly from fishery agencies, covering more than 1m sq km of the European continental shelf.
Information on the 50 most common species of fish (excluding pelagic fish such as mackerel and herring) was analysed, with 36 judged to have been affected by global warming. Of the 36 species, according to the research, 27 were found to be increasing in numbers.
Simpson, of Bristol University, said: "The bad news for traditional fisheries is that the nine that were in decline were things like cod, haddock, pollack, ling – species of fish that have been a very important component of our fishery.
"Those that were increasing were more exotic species like red mullet, grey gurnard and John Dory.
"We may see a further decline in cold-adapted species, many of which were a staple food for our grandparents. The flipside is a likely increase in species that for the UK seem relatively exotic.
"Over time with effective management and an appropriate response in consumer demand, European seas have the potential to yield productive and sustainable fisheries into the future. There will be more opportunities for fisheries based on species we're not really focusing on at the moment."
The north-east Atlantic has been described as the "cauldron of climate change" with some scientists reporting that over the last 30 years warming has increased at a rate four times the global average. Because waters around the British Isles are shallow and varied, they can be "invaded" more easily.
Simpson said. "We are seeing many more southerly warm-water species faring well on the European shelf. This means more small-bodied faster-growing species with shorter generation times and potentially more diversity."
More work is now being done to try to predict which fish will continue to flourish – or decline.
There was a mixed reaction to the report in Brixham, Devon, one of England's busiest fishing ports. Merchant Nigel Ward, who runs the Brixham Seafish Company, said he believed the seasons that certain species were found in had changed. For example, the lemon sole season used to end in June – now they are still being caught at the end of September.
He welcomed the idea of species like red mullet thriving. "We can find markets for many of these fish. Tastes are changing – people are more willing to experiment."
Rick Smith, managing director of Brixham Trawler Agents, who has more than 35 years experience of fishing at sea, was more sceptical.
Local fishermen had been celebrating a "fantastic" haddock season this year. "I've known it happen twice before – once in the sixties, then again in the seventies. These things come and go," he said.
Smith added they had always caught fish such as red mullet, gurnard and John Dory, though in previous years there was little or no market for much of it.
Fishmongers and restaurant owners say that haddock and cod are still the visitors' favourite fish in Brixham.
"But it is changing," said Dan Brenchley, head chef at the new Simply Fish restaurant. "People are more willing to try fish like mullet, gurnard and dab."
The study was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs and the Natural Environment Research Council and appears in Current Biology.
UK cod collapse due to overfishing and political failure, says fisheries expert
Dr Paul Connelly's criticism follows EU's recommendation that cod fishing halts in Irish Sea and off west Scotland
* Paul Brown, Dublin * guardian.co.uk, Friday 30 September 2011 11.29 BST
A fishing boat off the Scottish coast, which has seen dramatic declines in cod stocks. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA
Cod stocks in the Irish Sea and the west coast of Scotland have collapsed because of overfishing and politicians' refusal to fix low enough catch quotas, according to a leading fisheries scientist who advises the European commission on fish quotas.
Dr Paul Connolly's comments followed the European commission's decision on Wednesday to recommend for the first time that all fishing cod in the two sea areas is stopped. The commission has previously stopped short of pushing for such draconian measures in such a wide area of sea because of the political difficulty of placing a ban on fishing such a key species.
Connolly, who is the director of Fisheries Science Services at the Marine Institute in Galway, advises the commission on "total allowable catches" and in 2013 is due to take over as president of the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), the oldest marine scientific body.
He said: "Continuous over-fishing has led to a collapse in cod in both these areas. The signs have been there for years and scientists have repeatedly warned quotas must be cut but fisheries ministers have time and time again ignored us. We do not know now whether the stocks will recover."
The continuing crisis in the Common Fisheries Policy, where 88% of European stocks are overexploited and 30% in danger of collapse, has led the commission to label its own policy a failure. It has not achieved any of its objectives: to protect stocks, provide a sustainable food source and help fishing communities to be profitable.
The proposed bans were the most drastic measures the commission demanded this week designed to reduce the continued overfishing in many waters controlled by the EU. In all quotas for 53 stocks were reduced.
Maria Damanaki, the commissioner for fisheries, warned that if the EU did not reform the policy and reduce overfishing, only 8% of the 136 fish stocks in EU waters would be at sustainable levels by 2022.
According to ICES two of the biggest fishing nations France and Spain repeatedly failed to provide data on fish landings. This effectively prevented a realistic assessment of how many fish were actually caught and what was the state of the stock.
"The governments concerned say because there is not sufficient scientific evidence available that the stock is going down, then a higher quota should be fixed. Hiding the information is a political ploy to try and get higher quotas," said Connolly.
Aware that this is a problem, the commission has reduced its recommended quotas for some of the major fisheries by up to 25%, to try and force governments to supply scientists with the data.
The commission's decision puts pressure on governments to accept reforms and bring an end to the system where fishing ministers compete to get the best deal for their home industries without considering long-term consequences. As a result, the average quota for catches is fixed 48% higher than scientists advise.
Mike Parks, from the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, based in north-west Scotland, said a "state of anarchy" still exists in parts of the fishing industry where everyone was out for what they could get from a diminishing stock.
Scientists discover reef overfishing point September 27, 2011
Fishermen and scientists questioning how many fish can be sustainably taken from a reef believe they've quantified the tipping point.
Nick Graham, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, says ecosystems may take decades to recover from overfishing to feed the world's growing population.
In a report released today, researchers have demonstrated how overfishing can generate a predictable sequence of events that lead to the collapse of reef ecosystems.
It also offers targets in order to keep fisheries sustainable.
As "fish biomass" - the number and weight of fish living on a reef - declines due to fishing, a number of tipping points are crossed, from which it is increasingly harder to return.
The study shows that in well-protected areas, there are typically 1000 to 1500 kilograms of reef fish per hectare of coral reef.
As this is reduced below 1000 kilograms, early warning signs such as increased seaweed growth and urchin activity begin to show up, Dr Graham says.
"You see patches of weeds replacing coral, you see more sea urchins devouring the coral, you see a general decline in the species richness on the reef, and you see less coral cover," he said.
The researchers found that between 300 and 600 kilograms of fish per hectare was the "maximum sustainable yield".
When fish stocks dropped below 300 kilograms/hectare the reef was in real trouble, Dr Graham said.
The loss of hard corals, which had been thought of as a warning sign, was actually the last stage in the collapse of a reef, the study found.
The report, Critical thresholds and tangible targets for ecosystem-based management of coral reef fisheries, has been published in today's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS).
McDonald's Filet-O-Fish box with MSC label - Experts seem to think the little blue label can have a big impact
Think of your most ethical friends. The ones who order organic or fairtrade. Would they be seen in McDonald's?
Europe, and the UK in particular, is increasingly seen as a place where being greener is good business sense.
Campaigns by various organisations and celebrity chefs have raised awareness of sustainable food, and the latest company to sit up and take notice is the fast-food giant McDonald's.
From this month, all of McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwiches sold in Europe will now bear a label from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a British environmental watchdog, certifying that the fish used was caught in a sustainable way.
In plain English? That means 100 million fish sandwiches a year will be made with fish caught in ways that should not leave oceans desolate and marine life at risk.
And each one will carry a label on the box to tell us so - much like fairtrade-certified coffee, or beef from cattle raised on land that does not threaten the rainforest.
McDonald's says its vision is to go even further than this - and "to become one of the leaders in sustainability for our industry sector and for major industries within our supply chain, driving positive changes through our entire operations".
All the right buzzwords are there, but the move has caused controversy amongst environmental groups and ocean-watchers. Books like Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, and films like Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me have not created an image of the fast food industry as one that cares, with McDonald's often portrayed, fairly or not, as one of the worst offenders.
Cat Dorey, a fishing expert with Greenpeace, welcomes the move by McDonald's - though she warns there are some flaws within the MSC system.
She says a fishery - an area where a certain type of fish is caught - can get an MSC certificate, and so sell its fish to chains like McDonald's, while still using practices that are detrimental to the environment.
"In some areas a fishery could be performing well, in other areas a fishery could be under-performing and endangering the environment, yet still pass and get MSC certified," Ms Dorey says.
"Also, MSC will certify companies who use 'bottom trawling' - an instant no-no for us because it destroys the bed of the ocean."
But, despite these reservations, she warns against dismissing McDonald's efforts as mere "greenwash".
The four species of wild fish that are used in the Filet-O-Fish are now all traceable to four legal fisheries because of the new MSC certification process.
* cod and haddock from the Barents Sea * cod from the Baltic Sea * pollock from Alaska * hoki from New Zealand
Ms Dorey says: "There are so many illegal fisheries which destroy the environment and most people buy fish and don't have a clue where it is from. So what McDonald's is doing is a good thing."
So should scepticism be put aside and McDonald's move welcomed? After all, the so-called Big Food corporations have an enormous impact on the environment.
Joanna Trigg, the spokeswoman for McDonalds on this issue agrees that size matters. "McDonald's has a voice that is heard," she says.
"We touch millions of customers on a daily basis and want to use this influence to make a real difference… We are proud to have made real progress in keeping fish available and affordable across Europe."
The environmental journalist Eben Harrel says in his leading blog Ecocentric that the change is down to good business sense rather than sudden conversion to green principles.
Greenpeace "funeral for cod" - Greenpeace have held cod funerals to express concern at the risk to the species
"Big Food is starting to realise that unless it starts serving sustainable products it might find itself without a supply chain in the future," he writes.
Other, smaller food chains like the sandwich shop Pret A Manger, have long been using the labelling system to show that the fish in its sandwiches has been caught sustainably.
And the Marine Stewardship Council insist that its certification works. It says it can point to hard evidence that the scheme has helped fend off total collapse of some fisheries, avoiding a situation where so much fish has been caught that breeding can no longer take place, leaving the sea barren.
MSC spokeswoman Kate Wilcox says the standards it sets are designed to benefit both the fishing industry and the environment.
She says that if a fishery manages to qualify, then that reflects a "scientific certainty that the impact of the fishery on fish and the wider marine ecosystem is sustainable - that means that the fishery can continue productively indefinitely into the future".
And in order to carry an MSC label, fisheries must undergo a complete reassessment after five years by an accredited team.
Experts believe that when a huge corporation chooses ethical or sustainable food, it can have a significant impact.
They seem optimistic that putting the little blue label on the side of the burger box - even if just in Europe - will make a real difference.
McDonald's consumers in the United States will have to wait for a similar move.
But, on both sides of the pond, it is up to consumers to vote with their feet.