Posted: 15/04/2020

One producer’s hope for fish stock recovery due to COVID-19 outbreak

An Irish smokery hopes that the reduction in commercial fishing operations due to the coronavirus outbreak will allow fish stocks to recover in the nation’s waters.

Sally Barnes, owner of West Cork-based Woodcock Smokery, told FFD: “Because the fish markets have largely closed, the fishing effort has been reduced and it’s fish spawning time.”

“I’m hoping that this will give the fish an opportunity to boom.”

Her belief is not without precedent. The six-year pause in commercial fishing caused by World War II helped cod, haddock and whiting populations in Europe’s North Sea recover dramatically, according to research published in 2010.

Sally Barnes continues to produce smoked fish during lockdown. Picture: Max Jones

“The commercial fishing tends to occur when fish congregate in large numbers to spawn,” said Barnes. “It amazes me that there are so many fish in the sea.”

Fellow Woodcock smoke-curer Max Jones added it is no surprise that fish stocks suffer if large commercial fishing operations exploit the natural congregation of haddock during spawning season, which runs from March to May.

“Hopefully, we’ll see an amazing return in terms of the quantities in the coming years,” said Jones. “It makes you pause to think how absolutely relentless our consumption of the fish in the sea is. It’s great to think that nature will get a little break.”

As reported in the Guardian, Bryce Beukers-Stewart, a fisheries expert at the University of York said that a reduction in fishing could help populations to increase. “In an extreme scenario, which I do not wish on the fishing industry, we could see some dramatic reductions in fishing activity and as a result, recovery of stocks,” he said, noting that dramatic recoveries were seen after the second world war. However, Deas said stocks were already being managed “reasonably well”.

Woodcock Smokery is still smoking fish and offering contact-free collection for locals and online ordering and delivery.

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