A collapsing prawn bubble threatens to “devastate” UK fisheries dependent on crustaceans and shellfish, experts claim.
As stocks of big fish dwindled, fishermen turned to smaller fry to provide their main income.
In many regions, including the UK, shellfish are now the most valuable marine resource.
But replacing fish such as cod and haddock with prawns and scallops is highly precarious, say to the authors of a new study.
Like simplified agricultural systems, shell-fisheries are said to be at great risk of collapse.
Researcher Leigh Howarth, from the University of York, said: “Prawns are now the most valuable fishery in the UK, with catches currently worth over £110m a year.
“But this fishery has come to exist only after we over-exploited populations of cod, haddock and other predators. If shellfish now collapsed the social consequences for fishermen would be devastating. There are simply very few remaining species left to target.”
The study, published in journal Fish And Fisheries, reports a similar situation all over the world.