A new report has claimed that, since 1963, cod worth £2.7bn has been thrown overboard due to EU quotas. With such unsustainable fishing threatening fish stocks, shouldn’t we take strident action now?
News that 88% of European fish stocks are being fished unsustainably with 30% close to collapse, doesn’t only mean that our oceans are running out of fish but that billions of pounds has been thrown overboard over the last 40 years too.
But didn’t we think TV chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his friends had won this battle with the Fish Fight campaign?
The announcement made by Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki’s in July was actually only a proposal to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It included measures to ban discards by changing how fisherman weigh their catch – fisherman will now have limits on how much fish is caught rather than landed. But are proposals enough?
Should we follow science?
Hugh has welcomed the proposals as a step in the right direction, and perhaps ‘steps’ are all we can hope for when revising policies that affect the 141,110 fisherman who operate across Europe. But when faced with new research that shows 30% of freshwater fish face extinction and that species of fish from Newfoundland are only now showing signs of recovery 20 years after fishing bans were put in place, wouldn’t it be sensible to take giant leaps instead?
As the proposals stand, the Commission is just putting off a European version of the crisis we saw off the coast of Canada. Even members of the fish lobby are urging the Commission to follow science and take a more risk-based approach to managing the ban on discards.
Academics and NGOs also argue that the Commission needs to follow the science, not heavily-lobbied politicians, but they want to see fishing bans for certain species and tackle the overcapacity of Europe’s fishing fleet.
Don’t water down the Fisheries Policy
It’s doubtful these ideas will float the boat (sorry, it had to be done) of the fishing lobby – as it is, they argue that the proposals will damage the livelihood of fisherman. But aren’t they failing to notice the crucial element; that they’ll have no industry at all if there’s no fish left in the sea.
The CFP has two years before it becomes law, leaving plenty of option for lobbyists to further dilute proposals. It will be interesting to see how different industries engage with its development.
There have been worthy attempts made by some supermarkets to influence shoppers’ fish buying habits – Waitrose and Co-op have their own responsible sourcing policies and Sainsbury’s fish counter staff are now supposed to offer you more sustainable alternatives if you ask for cod, salmon, tuna, haddock or prawns – but the lack of action by other supermarkets speaks volumes about where their priorities lie.
I hope the Fish Fight campaigners have the gusto to take the influential food and fisheries lobbies. So while the reform to the CFP is welcome, the battle is far from won and the real work for Hugh and other campaigners starts now.