I quite like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, he is passionate and proactive and willing to do something about what he believes. His Fish Fight campaign to get rid of the practice of ‘discards’ actually worked. Not that I am cynical but he was going up against the might of the EU, yet it goes to show that with hard work, and using your celebrity status, it is possible to even convince the bureaucratic MEPs (who voted by 502 to 137) to take action. This sort of reminds me of the awareness that Joanna Lumley brought to the Gurkha Justice Campaign, who finally won their campaign on the 21 May 2009.
So this time Hugh’s target is to put in place 127 marine conservation zones around the UK, which would greatly elevate up our national conservation percentage, which currently stands at less than 0.001%. But we should also think wider, because we have been promised an ‘in/out’ referendum on Europe. If we vote ‘out’ then does that mean the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) can no longer allow other EU countries to fish in our waters and we are free to govern as we see fit? The benefit to our fishing industry could be monumental both to our fishing industry and to our economy. Having our marine rich waters back means that our export market to the EU, in theory would increase significantly.
Of course that all depends on whether we stay in the EU and those politically stormy clouds can be seen on the horizon. We will need some serious debate and education if we can vote effectively in that referendum.
Returning back to the idea of 127 marine conservation zones around the UK, which I am fully in favour of as long as there is balance struck between conservation and our fishing industry. I had a look at the CFPs website and their document ‘Guide to EU fisheries policy’ states in chapter 2 on page 8 the following:
“When we talk about ‘conservation’ in the Common Fisheries Policy, we are not talking about preserving fish in aspic, or turning the oceans into a wildlife reserve where only nature lovers and tourists are welcome. By conservation, we mean harvesting the seas’ bounty sustainably, so that the resources we draw on are able to replenish themselves, and are resilient enough to withstand other external shocks over which we have little or no direct control, such as the impact of climate change”.
This is not quite the view that the average person thinks of when you say ‘conservation’, indeed the Concise Oxford Dictionary also agrees with that thinking. If 127 zones were introduced would that restrict our fisherman are and condense them into too small an area? Could this in fact do more damage, or as Hugh believes would the marine life in the conservation zones spill out into the fishing zones in enough quantities to justify the conservation zones and improve our fishing industry?
A good cause in theory but I need to see a more detailed impact analysis on both implementing and not implementing the zones, and how or if our EU in/out referendum affects this plan.
Lets see how many people turn up on Hugh’s march to the Houses of Parliament at 12 pm on Monday 25 Feb 2013 and I do hope it is a good turn out. Unfortunately I will be working, but I will be able to watch from my window.