A temporary halt to fishing to allow some European stocks to recover could generate billions of pounds of profit within a decade, a report argues.

A trawler fisherman in Scotland (Getty)

All fish stocks, including North Sea cod which would take a little over nine years to get back into shape, could be restored within a decade, the report from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) says.

Investment of £9.16bn would have to be made to maintain fishermen's incomes and vessels while fishing cannot take place, the researchers say.

Restoring stocks would generate an extra £4.43bn profit over the decade to 2023, compared with the money fishermen would make if they carried on fishing the depleted stocks, the report calculates.

Once all the stocks are restored, they would generate £14.62bn a year in revenue, almost treble the value of fish landed at the moment, if they were fished at a sustainable level.

NEF suggests that the investment could come from the private sector, with every £1 put in generating a return of £1.48 within the first decade. Public funding could go towards measures such as training fishermen to monitor and police stocks while they cannot fish, to help ensure the investment is delivered, researchers suggest.

Restoring stocks

Rebuilding stocks should remove the need for any subsidies after 2023, the study estimates.

According to the campaign group FishFight half of all fish caught in the north sea is currently thrown overboard dead because it has been caught by a boat that doesn't have a quota to land it. The campaign is lobbying for a total ban on discards and a reformed European Common Fisheries Policy.

NEF believes over the next 40 years, the fisheries assessed could generate an extra £120.2bn in profits in today's terms if they are restored, almost doubling their value.

Aniol Esteban, Head of Environmental Economics at NEF, said: "In the context of the current debt crisis, these figures speak for themselves. This is a no-catch investment that offers huge financial returns.

"Continued overfishing is bad for European economies. Restoring fish stocks means more jobs, more income for coastal communities and less industry reliance on subsidies from taxpayers.

"It makes perfect economic and environmental sense."

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