Clyde could be restored
A new report has found that while the Clyde has clearly been impacted by human activities, it supports significant quantities of fish and is demonstrating some signs of recovery.
Taking in a wide array of information sources, the study by Marine Scotland has identified that the white fish biomass – the total weight of white fish species in the Firth of Clyde – is now twice as great as in the 1930’s and 1940’s, before intensive trawler fishing in the latter half of the 20th century left its mark.
The report also shows that the Firth of Clyde ecosystem has been altered by fishing, resulting in many more smaller fish – particularly young whiting – and a lack of larger predator species.
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“The Firth of Clyde has been a rich and productive fishing ground for Scottish fishermen for hundreds of years, however intensive fishing in the twentieth century has made an impact. Therefore it’s very encouraging that this new report reveals a remarkably resilient ecosystem, which has shown recent signs recovery and continues to support fish populations.
“What this report indicates is that with careful, collective management it may be possible to improve biodiversity and nurture the Firth back to a more diverse fishery, able to support mature fish stocks that can be sustainably harvested. This certainly casts doubts on assertions made about the state of the Clyde, implying recovery was not possible.
“I believe the Clyde can once again be a national asset, however there are no quick fixes and that’s why the Scottish Government, alongside other stakeholders, will consider this report carefully.
“In the coming months we will engage widely – including with conservation bodies, fishermen and local communities – to agree on our shared vision for the future of the Clyde, and how we can ensure the Clyde once again sustainably meets the needs and aspirations of those who live and work in the area.”
The Clyde Ecosystem Review was produced by Marine Scotland Science and pools together research sources and survey data to provide an assessment of the current state of fisheries in the Firth of Clyde.
The report finds that in the period 1990-2009, the total weight of the key demersal fish in the Clyde (sea bed living white fish species, such as cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, hake and plaice) was greater than 8,000 tonnes. This compares to approximately 4,000 tonnes or less in the period 1930-1949.
Although the weight of fish is now much larger in the Clyde than in the earlier period, 72 per cent of it is one species, whiting, and 85 per cent of the total weight is less than the legal minimum landing size. While not yet a healthy fish population, this shows that the Clyde ecosystem is still active and productive and can be restored, if relevant management measures are put into place.