Pic by PA
TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall led a march to Westminster on Monday to urge the Government to do more to protect UK seas.
He was accompanied by hundreds of supporters, many in fish-related fancy dress, waving banners and placards that urged ministers to increase the number of marine conservation areas to give badly damaged habitats and depleted fish stocks a chance to recover.
The march gathered outside the Houses of Parliament, calling for the creation of 127 marine conservation areas. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has so far planned to create 31 sites by the end of this year, but the celebrity chef warns this is not enough.
“This is the sort of opportunity that may not come again,” he says. “We might not have such a vital and appropriate time frame as we’ve got right now to make real changes. If we leave it too much later, too much damage will have been done. It will be hard for a lot of the areas to recover.”
Pic by Graham Catley, RSPB
The RSPB has called for tighter international regulations to prevent a substance that is lethal to seabirds from being released into our seas.
The substance, polyisobutene (PIB), was identified by scientists at the University of Plymouth from samples taken from seabirds washed up along the south-west coast of England. PIB is believed to have been responsible for over 4,000 seabird deaths in at least four incidents around European coasts in recent years, yet is currently given one of the lowest hazard classifications under The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.
The RSPB raises questions about the validity of this classification, as the effects of the chemical are only tested under laboratory conditions which do not take into account harmful effects on seabirds and the marine environment when it mixes with seawater. As a result, PIB can still legally be dumped into the sea when vessels wash out their tanks.
Alec Taylor, the RSPB’s Marine Policy Officer, said: “Given that this substance is used for making chewing gum, adhesive tape and cosmetics, millions of people safely come into contact with it every day. However, it’s when it mixes with seawater that this chemical can become lethal for seabirds, covering them in a sticky goo, and preventing them from flying, feeding and ultimately surviving.”
The RSPB is calling on the International Maritime Organisation to urgently review the hazard classification of PIB, and implement regulations that prevent any further tragic and avoidable incidents.
An extraordinary winter sighting of five Sperm whales off the coast of North West Scotland this week could be a reflection of climate change and warming sea temperatures, says a leading marine scientist.
The Sperm whales were first seen by creel fishermen between Loch Torridon and South Rona on Monday, according to a report on the Wildlife Extra website. The fishermen initially thought they were Humpback whales and alerted boat operator Nick Davies from Hebridean Whale Cruises, based at Gairloch, who is involved in a project collecting data for Sea Watch.
He went out to the location, and when he arrived was astonished to recognise Sperm whales diving together for food – the first time he has ever seen them. Dr Peter Evans, director of Sea Watch, says: “In past decades, most records of Sperm whales in British waters have been of lone adult males around Scotland mainly off the Northern Isles and the Hebrides. Increasingly, however, adolescent males have occurred in our waters, sometimes in groups of 5-10.
“Sightings of groups of Sperm whales have tended to occur mainly in summer so this winter sighting of a group is notable not just for the time of year but for its inshore location. The increased occurrence of winter sightings in Scottish waters could be a reflection of climate change.”
There was some worrying news about the future of reptiles from the Zoological Society of London last Friday, when they they revealed that one in five of world’s 10,000 species of reptiles are threatened with extinction.
Their new study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, estimates that 19% are now struggling to survive. Of those under threat, 12% of reptile species were critically endangered and 41% endangered and 47% vulnerable.
It highlights three critically endangered species:
- The jungle runner lizard, Ameiva vittata, which has only ever been spotted in an area of the Bolivian jungle that is under threat from the growth of agriculture and logging.
- The Anolis lizard from Haiti, where six of the nine species are at risk of extinction due to increased deforestation.
- Freshwater turtles — 50% are at risk of extinction from hunting because turtle parts are in high demand as ingredients in traditional medicine.
The study, published in conjunction with the IUCN species survival commission, reveals that 30% of freshwater reptile species are also in danger of disappearing. The spread of farming and deforestation in tropical regions represents two of the greatest threats to reptiles.
Monika Bohm, the lead author, said: “Reptiles are often associated with extreme habitats so it is easy to assume that they will be fine in our changing world. But many reptile species are very high specialized in terms of habitat use and the climatic conditions they require for day to day functioning. This makes them particularly sensitive to environmental changes.”
Celebrity chef and food writer Fearnley-Whittingstall will be leading a march on Parliament at noon on Monday, 25 February, to persuade ministers to put in place a wider network of marine conservation zones, where fishing would be effectively banned.
The seas around the UK cover 700,000km and yet only 8km are fully protected from all forms of fishing. Less than 10km are protected from the destruction that is caused to the seabed by the heavy iron teeth that are used to dredge for scallops and the metal chains of beam trawls.
The march is calling for the creation of 127 marine conservation areas and will set off from the London Aquarium at 12 noon and will be filmed for his new Channel 4 TV series, Hugh’s Fish Fight. Organisations taking part will include Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society, Sealife and the British Sub-Aqua Club.
The chef, who started his Fish Fight campaign two years ago, will highlight the destruction of our seabeds in his new series, starting tonight at 9pm. The first episode will show how the huge metal ploughs used on scallop dredges tear up all life, rocks and seaweeds on the seabed. Booths supermarket has already pledged to stop selling dredged scallops and will stock only scallops that have been dived for, which does not damage the surrounding area.
Fearnley-Whittingstall is hoping to replicate the success of his campaign against the discarding of healthy fish at sea under the EU’s fishing quotas. Discarding results in about half of the fish in the North Sea alone being thrown back dead, even though they are edible and healthy, because they are caught by vessels that have exceeded their quota. He has got the support of celebrities like Stephen Fry, Coldplay and Ricky Gervais, as well as several supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer.
The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to ban the wasteful practice of throwing away fish at sea in a victory for green groups after more than two years of campaigning.
There are hopes that these changes to the controversial EU Common Fisheries Policy can become law by next year. MEPs voted for the reform package by 502 votes to 137 after being bombarded with complaints, following a series of high-profile campaigns from environmentalists, fishermen and celebrity chefs.
Campaigners are angry that EU boats in the North Sea have to throw away up to half of what they catch to stay within their quotas. The reforms package include:
- Rebuilding fish stocks to sustainable levels
- Setting catch limits in line with the best scientific advice
- Banning discards
- Priority access to those who fish in environmentally beneficial ways
- Tightening the rules on how EU vessels fish in distant waters.
“This is really excellent news,” said the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who spearheaded a Fish Fight campaign that mobilised hundreds of thousands of people to oppose discards. “It was a nerve-racking morning. We’re really grateful to the thousands of Fish Fighters across Europe who emailed MEPs over the last few days, and helped to head off a last-ditch attempt by some politicians to fatally weaken the discards ban.”
Greenpeace welcomed the MEPs’ vote, saying the reforms were a “momentous shift away from overfishing” and would help to promote small-scale and low-impact fishing methods, which usually cause less environmental harm.
A Greenpeace spokesperson said: “National governments that stand in the way of reform, like Spain and France, will find it increasingly hard to act as proxies for a handful of powerful companies, with no concern for the long-term wellbeing of the oceans or the majority of fishermen.”
There is a great deal of relief after the Government has shelved controversial plans to sell off England’s publicly owned woodlands to the private sector. The u-turn was made after 500,000 people signed an online petition against the unpopular proposal.
Speaking last week, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced that the nation’s public forests would remain publicly owned and held in trust for future generations by a new public body. “I want to put the future of our public forests on a clear and firm footing,” he said. “Our forests and woodland will remain secured in public ownership for the people who enjoy them, the businesses that depend on them and the wildlife that flourishes in them.”
The Forestry Commission will be given extra funding of £3.5m this year to make up for not selling forestry land and an additional £2m has been found to help the commission deal with ash dieback.
Hen Anderson, of campaign group Save Our Woods, welcomed the Government’s response, saying it was vindication of the 500,000 who signed the online petition. “Very positive,” she said. “Two years ago they were flogging off the lot, but a half a million people kicked them in the pants.”
But some charities have criticised the lack of any timetable for setting up the new trust body and said the important work carried out by the Forestry Commission remained endangered by heavy budget cuts.
The RSPB said: “While these proposals are encouraging, they won’t help if our woodlands are starved of funding and effective management in the long term.”
Posted in Nature, Trees, Wildlife
Tagged campaigns, conservation, countryside, Forestry Commission, Owen Paterson, petitions, RSPB, Save Our Woods, woods
Success! The European Commission has listened to the 2.2 million people who signed the Avaaz online petition and proposed that member states restrict the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides linked to the decline of bees.
The Commission will be asking EU countries to suspend the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam on sunflowers, rapeseed, cotton, maize and other crops which bees are attracted to. The proposals mean the chemicals could be banned from use on flowering crops in Europe as early as July.
European Commission health spokesman Frederic Vincent said: “We are requesting member states to suspend for two years the use of the pesticides on seeds, granulates and sprays for crops which attract bees. We hope the regulation can be adopted before March.”
The proposals will enter EU law on 25 February if a majority of Europe’s member states vote in favour. France and the Netherlands are supportive but the UK and Germany are reported to be reluctant. The Commission wants restrictions in place by July and the measures will be reviewed after two years.
Luis Morago, from campaign group Avaaz , said: “This could mark a tipping point in our battle, but it does not go far enough. Over 2.2 million people want the European Commission to face-down spurious German and British opposition and push for comprehensive ban of neonicotinoid pesticides!”
Friends of the Earth also believes this “hugely significant EU proposal” promises a first, important step on the road to turning around the decline of our bees. “The UK Government must throw its weight behind this,” it said. “The evidence linking neonicotinoids to declining bee populations is growing. We can’t afford to ignore the threat they pose to these crucial pollinators.”
Posted in Bees, Nature, Wildlife
Tagged Avaaz, campaigns, conservation, countryside, crops, Europe, European Commission, Friends of the Earth, pesticides, petitions