Ministers listen to The End of the Line


As I dashed through the snow from the chaos around the COP15 climate conference to a screening of The End of the Line near the Town Hall in this lovely city, the phone went and I learned that European Ministers have done the right thing, arguably for the first time, in the annual talks over fish quotas, a story that might make headlines if it was not overshadowed by the climate talks.

They approved quotas based on scientific advice on North Sea cod, plaice and sole without discussion - instead of setting them at significantly more than scientists recommended as so often in recent years.

They also decided to ban fishing for the critically endangered porbeagle shark and cut allowable catches for the equally endangered spurdog.

What has come over them? Well partly it may have to do with an unprecedented spat with Norway over quotas, which will mean that these cannot be finalised until the New Year.

But I am also told that advisers have woken up to the fact that none of the major processers and retailers such as Birds Eye and Youngs are buying the North Sea cod because it is not being harvested sustainably.

Progressive ministers in Denmark, Germany and the UK have realised that the industry faces an uncertain future, and lower prices, unless it can sell its product across the whole market and this is behind the decision to bite the bullet, follow the scientific advice and manage the fishery properly. This is not before time, but to be applauded.

Could this have had anything to do with the fact that The End of the Line has been screened recently in all those countries?

Well, probably not directly, but indirectly the message that we in Europe can’t go on managing our seas like this seems to be getting through.


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