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Monthly Archive for September, 2009

Prince Albert of Monaco on proposed bluefin tuna ban

The End of the Line supporter Prince Albert of Monaco appeared on Channel 4 News discussing the proposal to add bluefin tuna to CITES - The Convention on International Trade in Endgangered Species.


Bluefin-Eating Surrender Monkeys?

It’s de rigueur in some quarters to dismiss France jokingly, as the Simpsons and some US political-types famously have done in the past. But the news today from Brussels suggests that the French government have made an embarrassing volte-face on bluefin tuna.

Just two months ago, none other than President Sarkozy himself announced that France would back a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna. This was huge news, as one of the principal fishing countries for the species, no one had thought they would take this position. This meant supporting the listing of the species under CITES, as is already the case for similarly-threatened species like rhinos, tigers, and gorillas. None of which, of course, are lucrative for big business or in high demand as delicious sushi.

France’s backing for a ban was promptly followed by the UK , Netherlands , Germany , Austria and Poland , all of them lining up to endorse the proposal by Monaco (the world’s first bluefin-free country). Amidst a flurry of media pressure, celebrity lobbying, and the influence of the End Of The Line, it seemed that bluefin had become a cause célèbre … and there was much rejoicing when the European Commission added its weight to the call for a ban just ten days ago.

So – just what has happened today? Well in order for the EU to back the proposal (and all 27 Member States would be bound by this) they needed to get a ‘qualified majority’ of 75%, effectively representing three quarters of the EU’s population. Because large and populous countries like France , Spain and Italy have voted against the proposal – there is in effect no agreement.

That means the decision will pass to Environment ministers from each of the EU member states at a later meeting, and it means that for all the press-posturing, none of the EU countries, or the EU itself, can co-sponsor Monaco ’s proposal to make a ban on the international trade in bluefin a reality.

Undoubtedly there has been fervent lobbying behind the scenes, by those with a vested interest, from the EU and beyond. And we know, too, that the ineffectual and shambolic Management Organisation ICCAT, currently tasked with looking after Atlantic bluefin, is desperate not to cede control to CITES. But we also know that others are wising up to the situation, with Mitsubishi Corporation last week reiterating its own concerns over the state of Atlantic bluefin.

So, as well as possibly being an embarrassing day to be European, today is not a good day to be a bluefin tuna – with reports surfacing just last week of the failures of enforcement and ever more illegal fishing of this beleaguered species.

As they say in France , plus ça change.


The End of the Line screened at 10 Downing Street

On 17th September The End Of The Line became only the second film ever to be have a screening at No. 10 Downing Street – a very special event hosted by the Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown.

Willie MacKenzie and Claire Lewis outside Number 10 Downing Street, before the screening of The End of the Line

Willie MacKenzie and Claire Lewis outside Number 10, before the screening of The End of the Line

The specially-invited audience was an eclectic mix of individuals, ranging from people working in the media, to NGOs, restaurateurs, representatives of the fishing industry, and some sixth-form students too.

Indeed Sarah Brown joked that many people were confused as to why they had been invited.

The UK’s Fisheries Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies was there, and both he and Sarah Brown told the assembled crowd just how important and essential they think the film is, and Charles Clover and Executive Producer Chris Gorell-Barnes were also able to say a few words on the issues.

This was a great opportunity, not only for the obligatory photos by the famous door, but also for reaching out to new audiences with the film’s message.

Sarah Brown has been a big supporter of the End Of The Line since attending the screening at the Science Museum earlier this year, and it is with the support of many such individuals that the film has managed to cross over and reach parts other documentaries can’t reach!

As well as the opportunity to see the film, the event was a great forum for the film team, and us fish-hugging NGO-types to talk about the issues in an informal setting with some people who really can help make a difference. The impressive surroundings helped too of course.

It’s rare, for example to get some unfettered access to chat with a government minister, and it’s also great to be able to talk to people fresh from their first viewing of the film about what are the most relevant and pressing things we need to do now.

It would be no exaggeration to say that bluefin was the hot topic on everyone’s lips (and thankfully I’m not referring to the catering).

The urgency of the plight of bluefin is something that we can’t ignore – and it’s something that we must give the UK government some kudos for, as they seem to be taking a very strong international lead on calling for a ban on the international trade in the species.

Thursday night’s screening was a chance for some supporters, notably the glamorous and eager bluefin-defender Greta Scacchi, to get a sense of how they can help at an international level, and for us to forge relationships with some of the people making the decisions, and others keen to help spread the message

And this is, of course, very timely too. Next week will see a crucial meeting when (we hope) EU member states agree to back the European Commission’s proposal for a ban on bluefin trade.

We see in Thursday’s Guardian yet another expose of rampant illegal fishing for bluefin tuna… and we must do whatever we can to make Europe and the rest of the world wake up to the need to take action.


Which fish is at the end of your line?

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

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?


Charles Clover interviewed on Channel 4 News about bluefin tuna

Charles Clover, author of The End of the Line, appearing on Channel 4 News on the likelihood of a ban on bluefin tuna fishing.


European officials back international ban on bluefin tuna trade

The European Commission has given its backing for a suspension of international trade in the endangered Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna – following a celebrity letter calling on President Barroso to save the species from extinction.

The European Commission – led by Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for the Environment and Joe Borg, Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs – agreed to propose to ministers that the EU backs Monaco’s proposal to list the bluefin on on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The ban, which is hotly opposed by Japan and was also by Mr Borg’s officials, would ban all international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna, and give the endangered species a chance of recovery. The Commissioners said this ban would be “temporary.”

EU countries will decide whether to confirm backing for the proposal on Sept 21. The EU will vote as usual as a bloc of 27 countries at the CITES meeting in Doha, Qatar in March next year.

Conservationists have warned that the bluefin’s spawning population would be wiped out by 2012 in the Mediterraneal and Eastern Atlantic without a ban on international trade for stocks to recover.

A petition by supporters of The End of the Line’s campaign to reform European fisheries was sent to President Barroso this week.

The original signatories, including the actors Greta Scacchi, Stephen Fry and Colin Firth, have been joined, among others, by Joanna Lumley, the French food writer Sophie Andrieu, the vineyard owner Baron Eric De Rothschild, the Italian actress Valeria Golino and the American narrator of The End of the Line, Ted Danson.


Joanna Lumley and Elle MacPherson among celebrities to add names to bluefin tuna petition

With the future of the bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic likely to be decided in Brussels this week, supporters of The End of the Line’s campaign to reform the management of Europe’s fisheries have written to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission asking him to save the tuna from commercial extinction.

As The Independent reported at the weekend there are moves by Japan and DG Mare, the marine and fisheries directorate of the European Commission, to undermine the ban on international trade in bluefin until stocks recover that has been proposed by France, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Poland.

We, The End of the Line campaign, are calling on President Barroso to show leadership. The letter we have sent is below and we shall add any more prominent signatures as they come in.

19 July 2009

Dear President Barroso

You may be aware that the film “The End of the Line” based on the book by British journalist and author, Charles Clover, has had a tremendous impact in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe following its general release in June this year.

The story is a simple one - the massive public policy failure of fisheries policies around the world and, in particular, highlighting the EU’s own lamentable Common Fisheries Policy. The film describes graphically the plight of the Atlantic bluefin tuna, a magnificent animal now sadly fished almost to the brink of extinction.

The film has alerted the public to the tragedy of the oceans. Your Commission has a chance to show the European public that you are able to take corrective action. On Wednesday 9th September, the Commission is expected to be presented with a choice on the fate of the bluefin tuna.

On the one side, the fate of this animal can continue to rest with the Regional Fisheries Management Organisation, ICCAT. On past evidence this will be a disaster.

The alternative is the option recently proposed by the Government of Monaco and supported inter alia by various Commission services (although not DG MARE apparently) as well as by several Member States.

This would involve the listing of the tuna as an endangered species under Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES.

The choice calls for your leadership, Mr President. You will be acutely aware that the European public would be outraged if an emblematic species like the bluefin tuna would go extinct on your watch.

We call on you and your Commission to do the right thing and give the tuna the absolute protection it deserves.

Yours sincerely

Greta Scacchi
Stephen Fry
Colin and Livia Firth
Richard E Grant
Sophie Dahl
Emilia Fox
Tom Aikens
Sophie Andrieu
Joanna Lumley
Charles Dance
Fiona Shaw
Elle MacPherson
Zac Goldsmith
Damian Aspinall
Ben Elliot
Ben Goldsmith
Kate Goldsmith
Baron Eric De Rothschild
Laura Bailey
Valeria Golino
Ted Danson
Alan Rickman
Prince Urbano Barberini