Could we 'restock' the oceans by releasing captive bred fish?

30 May 2010

Question

We have been encouraged to eat more fish, yet many wild fish stocks are endangered or decreasing, and fish farming can be detrimental to the environment.  Would we lessen these problems if we were to "stock" the oceans by breeding large numbers of fish in captivity and then releasing the young fish into the wild?

Answer

Helen - It's a very nice idea in some ways, but first of all, you have to think about the scale of what you're trying to do here. The oceans are absolutely enormous. The numbers of fish we're catching are absolutely enormous, and I just don't think we have the technology, if we even wanted to go about this if we thought it was a good idea.

We are doing some smaller scale things. Some European eels for example are being "re-stocked" and I'm saying that in inverted commas because they aren't actually being bred in captivity, they're just being moved around the place because in some areas, they're doing very, very badly, so tiny baby eels are being moved to try and restock rivers, to allow people to carry on fishing. There are things like genetic issues you might need to consider as well. What sort of species? Where are they coming from to restock them? And I think we mustn't forget that the oceans have an incredible ability to restock themselves. We just have to give them a chance.

When we take away fishing pressure from certain areas, we do see an extraordinary recovery. So we really have to focus on oceans healing themselves. I think stepping in and doing it ourselves is not the approach. It's a case of letting the oceans do it themselves and giving them a chance.

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