Friday, 15 February 2013
Hugh’s Fish Fight
It was really good to see the first in the series of Hugh’s Fish Fight last night. The Wildlife Trusts have been campaigning for years to improve the protection of our marine environment and it is really good to see someone bring this more into the public arena.
The statistics are stark: We probably have less than one twentieth of the fish in the sea than we might expect in a natural situation. If you compare the catch landed in the year 1900 with the catch landed in the year 2000 (with the massive increase in technology and fishing effort), less than 10% of the 1900 figure was landed in 2000. The odds are that if we had managed the sea sustainably we would now be harvesting vastly more fish than we are now.
This is not a case of conservationists causing the collapse of an industry. This is a case of an industry, through bad practice, bad management and (especially) bad regulation, killing itself. Indeed it is the action of conservationists that is the one thing that might save the industry in the long term.
The Marine Act was a success. The proposal for 127 Marine Conservation Zones, whilst extremely limited, was a success. The number of actual MCZs going forward to consultation (31) is a scandal! The reticence is due to some skewed view of economics where the environment is always perceived as a cost and any exploitative activity is seen as income. Here we have a very clear example of where an unsustainable industry has damaged itself, and yet people still seem to see the conservation of the resource it relies on as a cost! MCZs will mean more fish in the sea, not less, and could be one of the ways of saving the industry, not damaging it.