New research from a major fisheries think tank suggests that the number of fish species in the UK’s oceans is falling significantly, with little sign of recovery.
The report, published by the Institute for Marine Research (IMR), has found that the UK marine environment has been “contaminated” by overfishing, and the lack of good research in this area has resulted in a “large gap” between the research done by the country’s major fisheries bodies and the actual reality of the oceans.
The paper, titled The UK marine ecosystem: The problem is getting worse, and we’re doing nothing to fix it, argues that the government’s “marine fisheries strategy” was responsible for the lacklustre marine environment in the country.
“We found a substantial number of fisheries bodies had not adequately funded research on the UK ocean, with almost two thirds of the major fisheries organisations reporting that the sector was underfunded,” the report states.
The researchers also found that research funding from the UK government’s Marine Management Strategy has “increased by around 20% since 2015” and that the lack or difficulty of collecting data on the ocean’s biodiversity has caused “unprecedented levels of uncertainty”.
“We also found a lack of effective and comprehensive research into fisheries management on the part of the Government, with just five of the 15 UK governments research bodies having published research on fisheries,” the researchers state.
“This situation has led to a significant gap between the scientific knowledge and the policies and actions of the relevant governments and the research is currently incomplete and underfunded.”
A key problem with this approach, IMR warns, is that the “mainly-English speaking” Government agencies are “not adequately providing the necessary resources for this research to be carried out”.
“The lack of investment and funding has resulted from a failure of the research to recognise the need for a comprehensive understanding of the UK sea,” the authors say.
The research was carried out by the IPR’s Marine Research Institute (IMRI), which is one of Britain’s largest fisheries research organisations.
The study is published in the Journal of Marine Biology.
The report found that despite the UK Government’s emphasis on supporting fisheries, the research it was doing was “often not in line with the reality of ocean ecosystems”.
“There was an absence of effective, long-term research into the impacts of fishing on marine ecosystems,” it states.
“The main fisheries bodies reporting to the UK Cabinet are generally not sufficiently funded or focused on this area of research.”
The report also highlighted the “unimaginable complexity” of the ocean environment in which we live, and that our oceans are constantly changing and “dying” as the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide.
“A lack of understanding of our ocean and its ecosystem has resulted to the rapid and widespread depletion of fish stocks and biodiversity,” the IRI report states, adding that this “has contributed to the depletion of ecosystems and the loss of species that were vital to the survival of the human species”.
“For decades the oceans have been being overfished for fish, while there is no evidence that these fishing activities are harming the fish populations or reducing their numbers.
This has led the Government to fail to adequately fund, monitor and respond to these fisheries issues.”
The study also highlights the “over-reliance” on “fishing-related technologies” in the fisheries sector, as well as “inadequate research on how to sustainably harvest fish”.
It concludes that the situation “is becoming ever more complex, as the number and diversity of marine fish species have been declining for decades”.
“A major reason for this is the increasing impact of climate change and pollution on the marine environment,” the study states.
“The impacts of climate and pollution are also becoming more pronounced.”