At a special seminar in the European Parliament in Brussels today (Thursday 8 November), Scottish Conservative Euro MP Struan Stevenson is chairing a meeting of international fishing experts and scientists who will unveil a revolutionary new approach to fisheries that stands current management practices on their head.
The new system, 'Balanced Harvest', was first described at the World Fisheries Congress in Edinburgh earlier this year and has since been refined and improved. It distributes moderate fishing pressure across the widest possible range of fish species, stocks, ages and sizes, potentially replacing the current strategy of using nets and mesh sizes which target certain species and allow immature fish and other species to escape.
Speaking from the European Parliament, Struan Stevenson said: “Balanced Harvest is a hugely exciting development for fisheries sustainability. Its developers are confident that the balanced harvest approach can help to achieve the highest yields with the minimum ecological disturbance. It has generated huge interest around the world and the European Commission are attending today's meeting to hear what this new approach is all about.
"If balanced harvesting was introduced in the North Sea, it would help end the constant battle between fishermen who use a wide variety of fishing gears to target a broad spectrum of species and sizes, and managers in Brussels, Westminster and Holyrood, who try to impose size limitations and gear regulations. It may be the answer to achieving the 'Holy Grail' of fishing above Maximum Sustainable Yield, so that fish stocks are able readily to replenish themselves and catches and profits rise accordingly.
“We have to stop taking fish from the sea at a rate faster than they can be replaced. Two out of three EU fish stocks are currently depleted, but all of our stocks have the potential to become highly productive again, if we learn to fish sustainably. A long-term stable supply of fish will guarantee profits for the sector and a good income for our fishermen. Scientists think that our current approach has created an imbalance in the marine ecosystem and that we need a radical re-appraisal of fisheries management strategies. With the reform of the CFP underway it seems a highly opportune time to unveil this new, revolutionary concept."
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