Sometimes the old tricks are the best tricks. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign, launched in three hours of television on the UK’s Channel 4 last week, asks us to sign up to a petition to save the insane waste of fish caused by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. Around half of the fish that are caught in the North Sea are thrown back overboard dead every year because fishermen cannot control which fish they catch and the rules say that when a quota for one species is used up fishermen have to throw any more they catch back dead. But in other parts of the world fishermen land all they catch and the amount of fishing effort is regulated satisfactorily. Why can’t we? EU rules are uniquely bad and need to be changed. Conservationists and industry alike can happily heed that call.
In the time I have been logged on in the past hour, the petition on Hugh’s website has just exceeded 500,000. Already this is a phenomenon. Let’s make it more of one. We, the makers of The End of the Line, sensitized the British public to the issue of overfishing, but here is Hugh harnessing that awareness and giving people something they can do to express their anger. We thought hard, when making our film, about an “ask” which everyone anywhere could do. As our film was global, and not directed at any government in particular, a petition didn’t work for us. Instead we came up with the three “asks” at the end of the film – eat sustainable seafood, tell politicians to respect the science and to support the creation of marine reserves. And we had a bit of fun by inviting people to claim their bit of the sea.
But Hugh’s films are aimed at one nation and at one system of government, the EU’s, so a petition works amazingly well. If you are as clear, forceful, engaging and angry as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and catch the public mood, you can harness votes by the hundreds of thousands or even, let’s hope, millions. Well, he’s caught it and now he needs our help. Forget, for now, the complexities of getting rid of “discards” – the insane practice of throwing away perfectly good fish: it is possible and other countries have done it. Don’t listen to the siren voices of the industry spokesmen who say it can’t be done: just accept that many experts think it can – if we make enough of a fuss. So, if you haven’t already, wherever you are, do sign Hugh’s Fish Fight petition and get everyone you know to do likewise. For fish’s sake.
We are often asked what people can do to tackle overfishing and create more protected areas for the oceans’ wildlife. Well, the 70 environmental organisations that make up the Oceans 2012 campaign www.ocean2012.eu/petition have decided to make next week, starting June 6, European Fish Week and to petition the Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, to make environmental sustainability a prerequisite for a reformed Common Fisheries Policy when it comes into force in 2012.
The link to the petition is here www.ocean2012.eu/petition. Make your voice heard!
It was an ambush. Fishing nations, led by Libya, ruthlessly voted down proposals to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna at the meeting of 115 parties to the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species this afternoon.
Delegates from Monaco, the EU and the United States had hoped to keep the proposals being discussed into next week in the hope that compromises could be found. In the event, the debate was short and not at all sweet. Monaco’s proposal for an unqualified trade ban was rejected by 68 votes to 20, with 30 abstentions. Before that, the EU’s highly qualified version of the same proposal was crushed by 72 votes to 43.
The debate began with Monaco’s ambassador, Patrick Van Klaveren, speaking out in favour the proposal to place the Atlantic bluefin on Cites Appendix 1, on the grounds that the tuna had declined to less than 15 per cent of its original stock and UN scientists from two official bodies accepted that the criteria for it to be listed on Appendix 1 had been met.
This was followed by a lacklustre presentation, by the Spanish presidency, in favour of the conditions the EU wanted to place on the proposal. Then, instead of the torrent of support conservationists had hoped for there was a cascade of fishing nations, starting with Canada, speaking out against the proposed ban and in favour of leaving the management of the bluefin with the Atlantic tuna commission, ICCAT, which until recently has failed to set scientifically based quotas or to crack down on illegal fishing.
Speeches in favour of ICCAT continuing to manage the species, which can fetch up to $100,000 for a single specimen on the Japanese market, rolled on – Indonesia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Chile, Japan, Grenada, Korea, Senegal, Morocco.
Tunisia talked of social problems that would be caused if there was a ban, Morocco spoke of 2000 families in an area of no other employment who would have no income. Morocco said the bluefin was a flagship species it was in the interests of all to preserve, but said it was premature to regulate it under Cites.
Only Kenya, Norway and the United States spoke up in favour of a ban, despite advice from both the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and ICCAT’s own scientific committee that the bluefin deserved a respite from international trade.
By the time the eccentric Libyan delegate got the floor, it was clear where the majority lay. All it took was for Libya to propose a vote on Monaco’s proposal, and the chairman of the meeting, John Donaldson, had to put the proposal to close the debate to the meeting.
It was quite clear from there what would happen. Once the vote to hold a vote had been passed, the votes on the EU’s and Monaco’s vote were both lost.
Patrick Van Klaveren, for Monaco, said magnanimously: “It is not a defeat it is the manifestation of confidence put in ICCAT to solve the problem.” He threatened to come back in 2013 with another proposal to list the bluefin under Appendix 1 if ICCAT failed to take up the challenge to manage the bluefin for recovery.
At the press conference he shook hands with the leader of the Japanese delegation, Mitsunori Miyahara, who had taken part in the defeat of an attempt to place the bluefin on Cites in 1992.
Mr Miyahara, chief counsellor to the Japanese Fisheries Agency, said: “We agree that the bluefin is not in good shape. We have to take any measure for recovery. We have to work harder from now on.”
He said that at last November’s meeting of ICCAT, “finally the system started to work.”
“We are going to wipe out illegal fish from our markets.”
Sue Lieberman of the Pew Environment Trust branded the decision “irresponsible.”
“This meeting has said let’s take science and throw it out the door. There was clearly pressure from fishing industry. This fish is too valuable for its own good.
“Statements made about ICCAT blatantly were false. It’s time to hold ICCAT’s feet to the fire. We will be there every step of the way.”
A worldwide ban on the trade in the endangered bluefin tuna has moved a step closer after France pledged its support.
Bluefin tuna for sale at a fish market in Japan
In a significant move the French said they would support the listing of bluefin tuna under appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) but with conditions.
French environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo and fisheries minister Bruno Le Maire said they want an 18-month delay before the measures come into force. In return for its support France is also likely to seek an exclusive fishing zone for line-caught tuna as well as financial aid to retrain fishermen who are likely to be laid off.
At last, France has officially announced support for an international trade ban on Atlantic bluefin. This is great news.
It means that 23 out of the 27 EU countries now support the species being protected by CITES (the organisation which regulates trade in endangered species). It also means there is no longer any effective block to stop the EU reaching a common position (at a previous vote, it had been blocked by the Mediterranean countries).
Yes folks, your tax helped fund the overfishing of a species now teetering on the very brink of extinction. A species that 21 out of 27 EU countries now think should be subject to an international trade ban.
Raül Romeva i Rueda, a Spanish Green MEP, received answers to parliamentary questions revealing the extent of subsidies which took place between 2000 and 2008.
Of the €34.5m total, some €33.5m was for the construction and modernisation of fishing vessels, and only a tiny proportion (€1m) for decommissioning boats.
These revelations come as the EU Commission and member states have to start readdressing their own thoughts on Atlantic bluefin. Last month’s ICCAT meeting in Brazil failed to close the fishery, and saw EU negotiators (led by France and Spain) pushing for the highest possible quotas.
These new revelations make the whole EU bluefin story even more difficult to swallow, since the already lucrative trade in bluefin (which has escalated despite scientific warnings) has been made even more profitable with taxpayers’ money. And it’s not even as if the subsidies were targeted at supporting traditional or lower-impact methods of fishing - they also applied to the massive purse-seiners.
The beneficiaries of the money were Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain. In an amazing coincidence the six EU member states which blocked support for an international trade ban were Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain.
It really makes you wonder what the 21 other EU countries are getting out of this arrangement… and what exactly they will do next? The EU must come up with an agreed common position before the CITES meeting in March 2010.
Many countries like the UK have already publicly supported a full trade ban. This new illustration of just
how the countries blocking effective measures to protect this species are being subsidised to trash the species can surely only strengthen the case for such a ban.
Scientists say the population of Atlantic bluefin tuna has crashed so low that an immediate ban on international trade in the species is justified.
Scientists from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) said that spawning stocks of bluefin have fallen below 15 per cent of what they were historically on both sides of the Atlantic.
Their analysis said that that a suspension of commercial fishing was the only measure which would take the bluefin – which has become the symbol for many of European and Atlantic nations’ failure to manage their fisheries - out of the category of qualifying for a trade ban within a decade.
The scientists met in Madrid, Spain from Oct 21-23 to assess current stock status of Atlantic bluefin tuna against the specific criteria necessary to list a species under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – which would trigger a trade ban.
Earlier this month, the Principality of Monaco submitted a CITES Appendix I listing proposal to temporarily ban international commercial trade and allow the species to recover from years of ineffective fisheries management and control.
The official assessment of bluefin’s extreme stock decline was welcomed by the environment groups WWF, Greenpeace and the Pew Environment Group.
“What’s needed to save the stocks is a suspension of fishing activity and a suspension of international commercial trade – this is the only possible package that can give this fish a chance to recover,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.
“We must stop mercilessly exploiting this fragile natural resource until stocks show clear signs of rebound and until sustainable management and control measures are firmly put in place.”
“The ICCAT scientists have made formal what we have been saying all along – that Atlantic bluefin tuna is balancing precariously on the edge of collapse, and only drastic measures can now ensure this endangered species gets a fighting chance of recovery,” added Sebastian Losada of Greenpeace International.
“The extent of the failure by ICCAT members to act responsibly and preserve our marine environment can no longer be ignored.”
The verdict of the scientists will be submitted to ICCAT nations who will decide whether they will support an immediate trade ban or whether they will grant a quota for next year at their meeting next month in Recife, Brazil.
“Independent of what ICCAT decides to do in November, the science is undeniable that Atlantic bluefin tuna meets the criteria for a suspension of trade through a CITES Appendix I listing – and if ICCAT stops the fishing too, so much the better for this species,” said Dr Susan Lieberman of The Pew Environment Group.
“Atlantic bluefin tuna has been subject to decades of massive overfishing and overexploitation and time is running out to save this species.”
WWF, Greenpeace and The Pew Environment Group are calling on ICCAT to impose a zero quota next month. Interest will focus on what ICCAT does with the advice of its own scientists; in the past, the advice of ICCAT’s scientists has been largely ignored.
The next conference of the 175 members of the CITES treaty, meanwhile, is in Doha, Qatar, in March 2010, when WWF, Greenpeace and the Pew Environment Group are calling on members to vote in favour of an Appendix I listing for the bluefin.
The end of the line? Is this a film or an echo of the thoughts in my mind, somehow captured and recorded to be played to those that are prepared to listen to the truth that is unfolding all around us.
Fishermen from Portland Sea Bass company
My name is Jason Hemmings, I am the managing director of a fishing company, Portland Sea Bass Ltd, that catches and sells seafood that is fished in a sustainable manner - by rod and line - direct to the customer.
We also dive for scallops picking each one individually from the sea floor whilst leaving their surroundings intact and unharmed.
I was invited to a screening of The End of the Line at which Claire Lewis, one of the producers of the film, was doing a question and answer session afterwards.
I would like to say that it was an eye opener but as a commercial fisherman I am all too aware of what is happening in our oceans and see the story unfolding in front of me every day.
I have only been a fisherman for three full years, this is my fourth, our main target species is the European Sea Bass. Currently this is not a pressured stock but in the not-too-distant future, it may well be.
If the fishing methods that are used to catch these fish by other fishermen, such as pair trawling, are not stopped, if politicians continue to ignore what they have paid their scientists good money to undertake and understand, if the policing of illegal fishing is not funded or they are not given the power to do anything about illegal fishing, if reserves are not set up, if closed seasons when fish are breeding are not introduced then the Sea Bass will go the same way that the rest of the fish are going - fish heaven. Which would be hell for all of us that depend on them for our livelihood.
We need to harness them not just harvest them.
Politicians find it hard to come up with solutions, they have to think about commerce - which is destroying our planet. They always act too late and the longer they leave it, the more the costs spiral and the less financially viable the solutions become.
Sometimes in politics dictators are needed just enough to get us back on the right tracks, so we can “do the right thing!” The dictator is… yep… that’s right… little old wise… you.
Start buying fish that is fished by sustainable methods, don’t buy fish that is endangered, buy fish that have finished their breeding season and are in season, so to speak.
Buy fish that belong to an accredited fishery. Ask where your fish comes from and what fishing method was used. If the person selling the fish doesn’t know, then don’t buy it.
If you stop buying fish and fish products that are not harvested in a sustainable manner, then the person catching them will not be able to sell their fish, their operation will not be profitable, they will either put their good head on and fish sustainably or go out of business.
If you stick to your guns you can make it happen. Don’t give in, be powerful, be part of it, be strong play your trump card and win.
You are trumps and the line is in your hand! What is at the end of it?
You may have missed the news, but the story is that the EU’s scientific advice suggests that stocks of North Sea cod have increased five per cent in the last year, and are up a whopping 40 per cent from the average in 2005-2008.
Cod fishermen in the North Sea
Sounds like great news. And of course any increase in a rampantly-overfished population of animals is to be welcomed. But it needs to be set in context.
Cod stocks are generally at a historic low in the North Sea. Viewing numbers against last year, or five years ago, may indeed show a slight increase, but basic arithmetic will quickly tell you that five or even 40 per cent of ‘hardly-any’ is equal to ‘not-very-much’.
We need to look at the level of cod stocks decades, generations and centuries ago. That’s what we should be aiming for - managing our seas for the recovery and abundance of species rather than scrabbling around amongst the low digits snapping off every green shoot of recovery as soon as it breaks the surface. Charles Clover puts it into context here.
This is indeed great news. I for one am delighted that measures like more selective nets are being used, and that areas are being closed to fishing to try and protect cod stocks and reduce discards. This is eminently sensible, and the sort of thing Greenpeace has been campaigning for for years.
Of course we should minimise discards, they benefit no one.
But again, let’s look at the figures in context. As it’s not enough to say we have a great scheme for reducing discards, unless it does the job, is it? And what is the EU scientists’ news on cod discards in the North Sea … why, last year they showed a dramatic increase in discards. Yes, an increase.
More cod were caught and discarded (chucked away, dead and wasted) than were caught and landed. Most of these were immature fish that will never have the chance to breed.
So, by all means let’s applaud those taking measures to reduce fishing capacity, minimise discards, set aside areas free of fishing as marine reserves, and use more selective methods … but North Sea cod are not out of the woods yet.
Clamouring for increased quotas and painting such a rosy picture of recovery does the fishing industry no favours.
Willie MacKenzie is part of Greenpeace’s Ocean Campaign. This blog post originally appeared on the Greenpeace UK website.
As we celebrate the first ever World Oceans Day, I find myself doing so with mixed emotions. Without a doubt it is time the oceans got the recognition they deserve - they are stunning, full of incredible diversity and immeasurable beauty.
In Sierra Leone 80 per cent of animal protein in the average diet comes from the ocean
As a child I grew up by the ocean, on the oceans, and whenever possible in the oceans, and they are a fundamental part of my life. I feel blessed that I get go to work every day and work to save the oceans.
There is no doubt that they need saving. It’s become very clear that the oceans, that for so long seemed so vast, are far from infinite.
We are putting them under incredible pressures, and the impacts of pollution, acidification and climate change are adding up fast.
It is now very clear that we are completely over-fishing our oceans, starkly demonstrated by The End of the Line.
That 80 per cent of global fish stocks are fully exploited or depleted, and the prediction that we’ll run out of fish by 2048, is pretty scary.
I realise that for many these figures seem far from home. Not for me. My job as an oceans campaigner has taken me all over the world to investigate illegal fishing, which is both a cause and effect of over-fishing.
Bluefin is an endangered species, like rhinos, tigers, or gorillas, and after it was pointed out to them last September (although the species had been on the IUCN red list of endangered species for 12 years, had they bothered to check), they gave assurances that they would do something about it.
The End of the Line has been cropping up on blogs and news sites, and is receiving some very positive feedback.
Recent comments on the film and the campaign have appeared on the Washington Post, California Chronicle, Spear’s WMS (Wealth Management Survey) and Whole Food Market’s blog. Here is a round-up of the coverage the film is receiving.
Asked whether it is too late to save the oceans, he replies: “No. But part of the problem is that people still believe we live in a world of plenty. The world of plenty in terms of fish disappeared in 1988, and we haven’t caught up with that fact yet.”
He goes on to deal with the issue of farming carniverous fish: “It takes five pounds of little fish to grow one pound of salmon. And actually those fish, like Peruvian anchoveta and blue whiting, eat very nicely. So why don’t we eat the little fish?”
Whole Story, the Whole Foods Market blog, has a review by Carrie Brownstein, which has generated some debate amongst readers. She says: The film begins with beautiful footage of marine life and quickly (and graphically) moves toward its key message: The oceans are overfished and fish populations are in trouble.”
John Mitchell, writing in the California Chronicle, considers the the social implications of the need to curb overfishing:
“One of the most fascinating passages of the film . . . takes a look at the coast of Africa, which is being overfished by foreign - specifically European - boats. This has decimated not only the sea but also the livelihood of local fishermen, who now have nothing to catch.
“Colonialism is dead officially, but its ghost continues forward in the form of sucking up resources - the fish depletion is a direct contributor to the current pirate problem that’s making the headlines, pushing once-working fishermen into a life of crime in retaliation.”
What saddened Amanda Rappak the most, in the Green Living blog, was the inability of governments to “penetrate the complex fish market system with effective enough controls that would actually limit how much fish is caught”.
She also highlighted the film’s positive message: “The film offers avenues for taking action with its campaign, and so does Greenpeace. But it seems the first step to change would begin with a personal pledge to always knowing exactly where your food comes from and how it reached your plate.”
The Enviro blog at Huck Magazine cites the support the film is getting: “The film which was selected for the Sundance Film Festival this year has gathered international support from organisations such as WWF, and well known faces such as broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, also offers simple solutions we can all adapt to help prevent such a tragic future.”
Writing in the 1Click2Fame blog, Annabel Harrison says: “After watching the film, I realised that we should be doing so much more to protect what is one of the biggest natural sources of food for humans. The positive aspect of this global issue is that it’s not too late – there is plenty we can do to make sure that species don’t become extinct.”
On her blog, Regency Life in the 21st Century, Kimba writes : “We forget that these waters are also our to maintain, protect, and sustain. How? By eating only sustainable seafood. By helping politicians understand there needs to be protected areas where fishing is illegal. By getting the word out! There is a great new book and film “The End of the Line” that will tell you more.”
The End of the Line is six weeks away from its nationwide popular premiere (you can pre-book on line through this site – just go to the Screenings page) but already the fishing industry is starting its campaign against us.
Bring it on, we say.
When the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Seafish, the taxpayer-subsidised industry lobby group, sent their communications manager James Wood to the Festival to see the film and to report back.