EXPERTS at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea are warning that deep sea fish stocks are in danger of collapse.

Any fishing done at depths over 400 metres is regarded as deep sea, but this activity has increased rapidly in recent years as it’s become harder and harder to catch fish like cod and haddock.

Now the ICES are saying that they slow growing fish these deep sea boats are targeting, such as the roundnose grenadier and the orange roughy (pictured below), are in sharp decline.

“Orange roughy are one of the slowest growing of all fish and can live to be a staggering 125 years of age,” said a spokesman.

“Although we still have a lot to learn about these kinds of species, we do know that they are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because of their slow ability to reproduce.”

ICES warning that several deep sea stocks are now heavily exploited and in some cases severely depleted.

This raises the question as to whether deep sea fisheries at their present levels are sustainable.

“Some deep sea fisheries are long established and tend to be small scale, using traditional methods like long lining,” warned the ICES spokesperson.

“Fishing by factory trawlers expanded into deep sea fisheries through the 1980s and as fishing on the shelf waters declined, more and more turned to the deep water.”
ICES say that while it’s hard to put firm figures on the subsequent decline in deep sea stocks, anecdotal evidence suggests the problem is a serious one.

Catch data suggests a strong decline in ling, tusk, blue ling and roundnose grenadier in areas north and west of the British Isles and while catches of orange roughy have stabilised following a decline, experts think this may be down to the discovery of new fishing grounds.