What a load of Pollacks.
You may well have heard recently ( Dec 2023 ) that the government is suggesting that there will be a zero quota for Pollack for 2024. This effectively means that fishers cannot target Pollack as part of their catch. It appears this has come very suddenly, in fact the government was warned 6 months ago that there was a risk this might happen and over the last few years despite scientists advising to lower quotas the government actually increased them!!
What is the issue? Basically, the numbers of Pollack in the south-west waters have declined to such an extent that a zero quota is seen as the only way to protect them. This information has come from ICES – the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas – the scientists. The thing is, the way that the data is monitored/collected and/or the criteria for decision making was changed last year. So whilst there might have been 'concerns' about Pollack stocks in the south-west, suddenly it is decided that the situation is critical and therefore a zero quota has been suggested.
Pollack has been a hugely popular fish in the first few years and seen as a great replacement for Cod which was seen as overfished in the North Sea. I even went on loal radio last year to celebrate Pollack's sustainablity and great eating qualities.
There are many inshore, day boats who rely on catching Pollack to support their businesses and a good percentage of Pollack is rod and line caught which is a super sustainable way of fishing.
Unfortunately, some boats have netted wrecks and this removes a huge quantity of fish in one go but they are just catching what they are allowed to.
Why do we find ourselves in this position? The fishers are given a quota of how much of each species they can catch by DEFRA. It is, therefore, DEFRA that effectively manages the fisheries under guidance from scientific bodies who monitor the fish stocks.
What I question is how is this an effective way to manage our fisheries, how can fishers manage their own businesses if this is how the government responds to the science.
From my perspective removing Pollack from allowable catch means I am then really only able to stock Hake and Haddock from the south-west markets. Cod is landed in the south-west but not in any significant quantities as it has already been on a zero allowable catch – the only fish that is landed is by-catch, fishers aren't allowed to target Cod. Pollack will now fall under the same system, some will be allowed to be landed as by-catch only. Hake will hopefully remain at sustainable levels to ensure that white fish shortages don't force prices up.
Do I stock Pollack going forward then? Well, as a business I have to provide my customers with the best quaility fish I can get. Once caught, even by rod and line, the Pollack don't survive therefore it is absolutely right that they should be put into the food chain and continue to provide an income for the local day boats. I will continue to support my local rod and line fishers – after all it isn't their fault there isn't much Pollack around.
It has been proved that if you restrict fishing on certain species they do recover their numbers, just look at the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna stocks. Hopefully we can see more of this getting landed through this year.