When it comes to seafood, we're hurtling towards code red. Global warming, oil spills, and our unwavering addiction to cheap sushi have all helped to deplete fish supplies. Earlier this year, the UN's biannual State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture warned that the sustainable limit for the global production of fish had almost been reached. Is there anything we can do to stop the fish apocalypse?
EU officials are hoping so. Last week, the European commission proposed a ban on the commercial fishing of sea bass in the Atlantic and whiting in the waters of Scotland from next year. The proposals would also reduce the "total allowable catch" for cod in the Celtic Sea by 68 percent and sole in the Irish Sea by 82 percent.
An EU official explained the thinking behind the stringent new fishing quotas to the Guardian: "There is a reason why scientists are recommending such harsh proposals. There are just not enough fish in the sea."
The move comes after what the EU describes as "very alarming" advice from fisheries scientists, who found that fish numbers had fallen below "safe biological limits." EU ministers will make a final decision on next year's quotas at a summit in December.
Unsurprisingly, the new catch restrictions haven't been welcomed by the UK fishing industry, who say unfair EU quotas make it impossible for British fishermen to earn a decent living. Fisheries minister George Eustice told The Daily Telegraph that there was no "balance" to Britain's fishing agreements with the EU and noted that Brexit might actually be a good thing for UK fishing.
He said: "It's pretty clear that Brexit can be a good deal for British fishermen because we regain control. The equation is that they have 1 million tonnes of UK fish and we get about 150,000 tonnes of fish of various species. There are areas we would hope to get a better deal, particularly with cod and plaice."
However, the EU official also told the Guardian that the share of overall fish catches allocated to the UK would not change after Brexit. They said: "This is not on the table."
There was some good news for British fishermen within the EU's proposed quotas. Fishing allowance for sole in the western Channel would be raised by 20 percent and haddock in the Irish Sea by 7 percent.
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs told the Guardian: "Quotas play a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of our stocks, striking a balance between a profitable fishing industry and flourishing marine environment. We will work hard in upcoming negotiations to secure the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry—both now, and for the future."
And let's hope it's a future that includes grilled sea bass and battered cod.