North Sea fishing ban to save eels Jun 11 2005 Fishing for sand eels in the North Sea is to be banned this month to try to save depleted stocks, wildlife campaigners have said.
But the decision by Brussels to close the sand eel fishery for the rest of the year could be too late for this year’s seabirds, which suffered their worst breeding season on record in 2004, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Many seabirds feed on sand eels and their decline, due largely to climate change, has been blamed for last year’s breeding disaster.
This year, seabirds are breeding late, reducing their chances of rearing chicks successfully, while some are not nesting at all.
Dr Euan Dunn, head of marine policy at the RSPB, said: “The decision to close the sand eel fishery is hugely welcome but no sand eels means few for seabirds either, so the chances of seabird chicks surviving this year do not look good.
“Seabirds have delayed their breeding this year, so what sand eel peak there is this summer will have passed when many seabirds and their chicks most need the food.
“Climate change and the rise in North Sea temperatures may well be the major cause of the sand eel decline and, if so, will take years to reverse.
“Because of that, we need to make sure that other human action, notably fishing, doesn’t make things worse for sand eels and seabirds in the short term.”
The European Commission is to accept the recommendation from its Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries that the North Sea sand eel fishery should close immediately.
Surveys in April and early May showed that North Sea sand eel numbers were just half of the 300,000 million fish required to permit fishing to continue