Fishing in the North Sea

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The North Sea
Fishing in the North Sea is concentrated in the southern part of the coastal waters. The main method of fishing is trawling.
Annual catches grew each year until the 1980s, when a high point of more than 3 million metric tons (3.3millionS/T) was reached. Since then, the numbers have fallen back to around 2.3 million tons (2.5millionS/T) annually with considerable differences between years. Besides the fish caught, it is estimated that 150,000metrictons (165,000S/T) of unmarketable by-catch are caught and around 85,000metrictons (94,000S/T) of dead and injured invertebrates.
Of the caught fish, about half are used for the production of fish oil and fish meal.
History
Sturgeon, shad, rays, skates and salmon among other species were common in the North Sea into the 20th century, when numbers declined due to overfishing.
Other factors like the introduction of non-indigenous species, industrial and agricultural pollution, trawling and dredging, human-induced eutrophication, construction on coastal breeding and feeding grounds, sand and gravel extraction, offshore construction, and heavy shipping traffic have also contributed to the decline.

The underside and mouth of a sturgeon
The OSPAR commission manages the OSPAR convention to counteract the harmful effects of human activity on wildlife in the North Sea, preserve endangered species, and provide environmental protection. All North Sea border states are signatories of the MARPOL 73/78 Accords which preserves the marine environment by preventing pollution from ships. Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands also have a trilateral agreement for the protection of the Wadden Sea, or mudflats, which run along the coasts of the three countries on the southern edge of the North Sea.
At the end of the 19th century large quantities of herring were produced in Scotland. Today mainly mackerel, Atlantic cod, whiting, coalfish, European plaice, and sole are caught. In addition, common shrimp, lobster, and crab, along with a variety of shellfish are harvested.
Overfishing

Trends in landings of Cod, Haddock, Whiting and Norway Pout from the North Sea (1961-2004).
In recent decades, overfishing has left many fisheries unproductive, disturbing the marine food chain dynamics and costing jobs in the fishing industry. Herring, cod and plaice fisheries may soon face the same plight as mackerel fishing which ceased in the 1970s due to overfishing. Since the 1960s, various regulations have attempted to protect the stocks of fish such as limited fishing times and limited numbers of fishing boats, among other regulations. However, these rules were never systematically enforced and did not bring much relief. Since then, the United Kingdom and Denmark, two important fishing nations, became members of the EU, and have attempted, with the help of the Common Fisheries Policy, to bring the problem under control.
Norway, not a member of the EU, has also reached an agreement with the European Community concerning fishing policy. Regional advisory committees meet with the EU to help enforce policy.
In addition to threats due to food-chain disturbances, non-target species often wind up as victims of intense fishing. Sea turtles, dolphins, harbour porpoises, rays, and dozens of fish species are killed or injured by trawlers nets and beams. Denmark’s trawler fishing alone accounts for the deaths of 5,000 porpoises a year. Trawling can also have a destructive effect on seabed habitats as the trawler beams drag along the floor can uproot plants and destroy reefs.
Fish caught in the North Sea in metric tons
Country
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
1996
2002
Denmark
96,494
284,527
528,127
1,806,191
1,328,251
1,284,365
1,249,656
Norway
296,337
323,381
480,819
498,777
617,741
618,669
691,062
United Kingdom
308,895
343,002
410,775
389,417
343,205
355,385
295,367
Germany
233,481
305,776
284,685
90,217
108,990
63,647
69,836
Netherlands
64,438
92,119
121,524
213,365
256,597
140,765
146,835
Soviet Union / Russia
89,269
352,857
429,182
7,181
1
0
0
France
79,751
149,769
202,948
100,861
64,860
35,262
55,379
Sweden
43,680
71,899
124,790
86,465
116,695
72,863
131,991
Faroe Islands
38,630
17,111
63,725
71,540
23,292
27,572
0
Iceland
0
50,065
21,111
523
0
8
4,668
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