Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ocean Detox

the result of bottom trawlingWe are continually being warned that fish stocks in the seas around the UK are in a state of collapse due to over fishing and that much of the marine environment as a whole has been badly damaged by commercial offshore aggregate dredging and bottom trawling, which scours the seabed bare.

The problem with fishing quotas is that they do not also address fishing practices like trawling which is indiscriminate. If trawlers have already exceeded their quota they end up throwing fish back into the sea, dead. This ain’t helping.

Groups like the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Greenpeace and the Wildlife Trusts are campaigning for large Marine Reserves where commercial fishing and other forms of exploitation are banned to allow threatened species and fish stocks to recover and ensure long-term survival of the fishing industry. The government has now agreed to publish a draft Marine Bill this spring, with a view to putting it before Parliament in the autumn. Unfortunately, under the Government's proposals the establishment of protected areas will remain at the minister's discretion, protection will only be afforded to very limited areas and only to areas within the UK's 12 mile limit and even most of these areas will be afforded only very limited protection. There is widespread agreement amongst experts that at least 30% of the sea needs to be covered by reserves and that these areas need to be real "no take zones", if we are to protect physical habitats and allow fish populations to rebuild. Evidence from such Marine Reserves around the world shows how effective they are in achieving this.

However, there is Ethical Fish. This group of fisherman have twigged and are now looking at ways to minimise by-catch. "If we want to survive, our companies have to do something that keep it sound and well, and that the nature stays how it is."
Bart Van Olphen, owner of four fishmonger stores in Holland, says:
"I get all sorts of customers, and it surprises me because you might think that people with sustainable food wear funny socks, ride funny bicycles and have long hair. But it is all kinds of people that are interested in 'green fish'."

And the celeb chefs are at it too. The campaign launched with an event at Old Billingsgate Fish Market in London on 30 January with top chefs
Raymond Blanc and Tom Aikens urging other chefs to use only sustainable seafood on their menus (click on their names to hear their speeches). And it's already attracted the backing of multiple Michelin-starred Heston Blumenthal and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. They've all agreed to sign the following pledge:
Our oceans are in crisis. If we are going to enjoy eating fish in the tomorrow, we need to change the way we do business, today. I want to be part of the wave of change.
I pledge to do my bit to protect our oceans by
- using my influence to promote sustainable seafood
- working to make sure that the seafood I sell or serve is sustainable
- supporting large scale marine reserves [national parks at sea] which allow space for fish stocks to recover

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