Researchers at the University of York have set alarm bells ringing with a warning that the Clyde has become “an ecosystem in meltdown.”
Once known for its halibut, cod, sharks and heavy catches of herring, they are almost all but gone from the Clyde, and it is claimed langoustine stocks could collapse through overfishing.
The study, due to be published next month, was carried out by Callum Roberts, a professor of marine biology at York and an expert on fish stocks, along with Ruth Thurstan, a PhD researcher.
Roberts said: “The Clyde has been cleaned out. In the process of exploiting species we have heavily degraded the environment and the ecosystem.
“The Firth of Clyde is nearing the end point.”
A recent report by Marine Safety Services warned that the Firth of Clyde, which stretches from Loch Fyne to the Mull of Kintyre, was being exploited unsustainably, although it said stocks would not immediately collapse.
However, an industry expert last night criticised the findings. Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation, hit out at the report, claiming it was destructive to the industry.
He said: “The report is nothing but lightweight sensationalism, painting a picture which is unworthy and inaccurate … and there is absolutely no time-
scale for what is being suggested, that the Clyde will be a marine desert. The Scottish fishing industry is working hard to secure our fish stocks, but the report suggests we are doing nothing about it. We are halfway towards a long-term management programme for haddock.
“The report suggests langoustines are finished, when in actual fact they are very sustainable.
“Fishing stocks are cyclical and there will be changes, but it needs care and attention, which is exactly what the industry is working on.”
Earlier this year a wildlife group called for leadership from the Scottish fishing fleet to ensure healthy stocks for the future.
WWF marine policy officer Louize Hill said: “Scotland has already shown leadership in innovative fisheries management with the conservation credits scheme, which has led to significant benefits in stock conservation.
“A good outcome from the Scottish Fisheries Council should lead to further positive steps in the form of this action plan.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to the preservation of fishing stocks as part of our overall work to deliver a sustainable future for Scotland’s marine and coastal environments and the wider economy.”