Category Archives: Fish

Europe supports Arctic Sanctuary

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There was good news this month when the European Parliament passed a resolution supporting the creation of an Arctic Sanctuary covering the vast high Arctic around the North Pole, giving official status to an idea that has been pushed for by Green activists and campaigners for several years.

The proposed sanctuary, lying outside of Exclusive Economic Zones, would cover “one of the largest and least exploited areas on Earth: a 2.8 million square kilometer zone of the global commons,” writes Neil Hamilton, the Senior Political Advisor Polar with Greenpeace Norway. “That would be the biggest conservation zone in existence, protecting fish stocks, ice-dependent species, and a huge variety of cold water species.”

Greenpeace has been campaigning for a global Arctic Sanctuary for several years, including gathering some 5 million signatures from around the world, because there has been rising interest from governments and industries to exploit the once inaccessible wilderness for fish and fossil fuels.

The resolution notes that “climate changes in the Arctic will have a major impact on coastal regions globally, including coastal regions in the European Union, and on climate-dependent sectors in Europe such as agriculture and fisheries, energy, reindeer herding, hunting, tourism and transport.”

In addition to supporting an Arctic Sanctuary, the European Parliament’s resolution would ban fisheries in the high Arctic seas “until the establishment of appropriate regulatory mechanisms and protection.” It also calls for “strict precautionary regulatory standards” when it comes to fossil fuel exploration and extraction in the region.

Last December, Gazprom become the first energy company to begin pumping oil out of the Arctic seabed. In response to this the European Parliament expressed “strong concern regarding the rush for oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic without adequate standards being enforced”.

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Fish scheme up for ethics award

Vital European debate on wasteful fish discards

Fish Fight march, London, Britain - 25 Feb 2013

Campaigners protest outside Westminster. Photo: Rex Features

Crucial negotiations in Brussels in the next few days will decide whether the EU’s wasteful fish discards policy will come to an end.

Currently, millions of healthy fish back are thrown back into the sea each year after they have been caught, because of the way the EU’s quotas are managed.

But a ban on discards has gathered huge public backing since the TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made it a personal campaign more than two years ago, highlighting the waste of the EU’s rapidly dwindling fish stocks. He has gathered the support of the UK fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, who will fight for the ban in an EU meeting starting on Monday.

This week’s battle will be intense. For the opponents of a ban, including Spain and Portugal, this is the last chance to scupper proposals that would mean the biggest shakeup of the EU common fisheries policy since it was brought in four decades ago.

Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose FishFight campaign has gathered more than 850,000 supporters, said that it was “crunch time” for the reforms that are needed to end the “crazy system”. He said: “We need a strong discard ban and a legally enforceable commitment to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels. To any sane person, wasting half a million tonnes of fine edible fish every year is simply unacceptable.”

A number of countries and MEPs want to keep the discards system because it allows their large fishing fleets to maximise profits. Fishermen discard parts of their catch when they have netted species for which they do not have a quota, because it leaves more room to take home the species they are after, or when they have exceeded their quota they often throw back smaller specimens. They also throw back lower-value species for which there is less commercial demand.

All of these measures allow fishermen to maximise their profits, taking ashore only the most valuable section of their catch and throwing the rest away – even though the discarded fish are healthy and edible. Reform would mean they have to land the whole catch, which should help to stop the plunder of the EU’s dwindling fish stocks.

If the reformers win the day, there could be a discards ban in place for many important species within a year, with the rest phased in over the next three to five years. Fishing rights would also have to be set according to scientific advice as to the “maximum sustainable yield”.

Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “The French and Spanish may have learned to profit from this crazy system down the years, but now it has to end. Kowtowing to their calls for compromise and threats of blocking reform is simply not an option.”

Campaigners take fish fight to Westminster

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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.”