This event may not be in the same league as others that contributed to the fall of the British Empire, but when the U.K. starts running out of fish for their beloved fish and chips, something is definitely amiss.
“UK fish consumption in 2012 has already matched what our seas can supply for the year, leaving the country reliant on imported cod and haddock for fish and chips,” The Guardian reported yesterday.
“Annual fish supplies from UK seas can only satisfy demand for 233 days,” the Guardian said, “so if the UK were to rely on its own fisheries for the year we would run out of stocks by today, a report from the New Economics Foundation calculated. At least one in three fish consumed here is imported from outside the EU, the think tank said, with the UK reliant on countries such as Iceland, Norway and even China for a large share of traditional British fish.”
The foundation also notes, “The situation has improved since last year, when the UK effectively ran out of fish more than a month earlier than in 2012, but is largely unchanged over the past decade. Across Europe the situation is even more acute, with EU consumption of fish outstripping the bloc's annual fish supplies by 6 July.”
The Ecologist provides a quick context to the phenomenal growth in fish consumption in some other parts of the world, noting, “In 1982, Japan led the global fishing market with an annual catch of over 11.8 million short tons. The United States followed with an annual catch of 4.3 million. Over the last thirty years these numbers have skyrocketed reaching annual rates of 2 billion tons in Japan and 800 million in the United States. What some may view as advancement and efficiency in the fishing industry, others will deem the result of gluttony and blind consumption. What is undeniable is the adverse environmental impact.”
Looking at the economic and environmental impacts of cod overfishing specifically, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch says, “The ocean ecosystem—and the food on our tables—aren't the only things affected by overfishing. Along the way, it becomes more and more difficult for fishermen to make a living. Many fisheries have already suffered. Some—like New England cod—have already 'collapsed,' meaning the population is at 10 percent or less of their historic levels, a point at which recovery may be impossible. When this happens, coastal economies can be devastated.”
Back in the U.K., some, like Rupert Crilly of the NEF, believe his country can still fix the problem. He told the Guardian, “The UK had access to productive fishing grounds and had moderate levels of consumption compared to some other European countries such as Spain and Portugal. ‘It could produce as much as it needs but instead it is a net importer of fish.’ ”
Crilly went on to say, “Consumers understand that we import tuna which is virtually non-existent in its waters; but they will wonder why we need to import cod and haddock from China when our cod and haddock stocks could deliver five and three times more catches with better management.”
Good question, Rupert.
Do you think the effects of overfishing can still be reversed? Let us know in the comments.
Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com