Monthly Archives: February 2013

Landmark victory for fish fighters across Europe

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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.”

England’s forests saved from private ‘sell off’

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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.”

 

Online petition persuades EU to act on harmful pesticides

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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.”

Struggle to save stricken seabirds continues

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The mystery substance found on hundreds of seabirds washed up on the south coast is a “mixture of refined mineral oils”, says the Environment Agency.

Wildlife experts have warned many more birds could be affected by the waxy substance. Hundreds of birds were found on beaches from Sussex to Cornwall on Thursday. Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “Every effort is being made to identify the cause of this problem. I’d like to thank everyone involved in helping the seabirds affected and it’s thanks to their efforts that many have been cleaned up and now have a chance of survival.”

The total rescue count so far is 162 alive and rescued, but 200 are dead, including a juvenile puffin, a fulmar and 3 razorbills. It is thought the substance may have been dumped into the English Channel by a ship. Most birds have been found in Dorset but others are appearing in Sussex, Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall.