More than half the fish we eat in Britain comes from just three species – cod, tuna and salmon. You don’t have to think too hard about that statistic to see the problem… At the same time, oily fish like sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel are being industrially abused to feed pigs and chicken as well as salmon. Why aren’t we eating them ourselves?
Half of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited, and another quarter overfished – meaning populations are struggling to survive. In Europe, as much as 80% of stocks are overfished.
The biggest factor in the reduction in fish numbers is the massive advance in fishing technology over the last sixty years. Since 1950, the amount of fish caught worldwide has increased around fivefold.
Consumers in the UK tend to eat a small number of familiar favourites like cod. We ignore many of the fish that have nourished us for centuries. Paradoxically, increases in the size of trawls, nets and lines mean that alongside this narrowing of tastes, it has become harder for fishermen to discriminate between fish we want and fish we don’t. This means bigger bycatches of non-target species, which are thrown back dead or dying into the sea.