Tag Archive for 'bluefin tuna'
The End of the Line has won one of the film world’s most valuable awards after being hailed for bringing about real change in its efforts to stop the oceans being emptied of fish. It was announced the winner of the inaugural Puma Creative Impact Award at a ceremony in Central London, beating off stiff competition from Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country and The Age of Stupid.
The End of the Line, directed by Rupert Murray, features Charles Clover, the investigative journalist, as he chronicles the catastrophic decline of global fish stocks, challenging politicians and restaurateurs along the way.
The Puma award judges, including Queen Noor of Jordan, Morgan Spurlock, the director of Super Size Me, were impressed both by the immediate impact of the documentary and its long-term social influence.
Jon Snow said he was “not surprised” The End of the Line had been named the overall winner. The documentary had “completely transformed the way a very large number of people think about fish”, he added. “You can see restaurants and supermarkets changing their ways because of what their customers now know,” Snow told BBC News.
Snow who hosted the award ceremony, paid tribute to the film’s achievements in persuading companies like Pret a Manger and Whiskas cat food to change their fish-buying policies to reduce the damage to the world’s fisheries, and in helping to create a charity that with the Chagos Islands initiative has doubled the area of the oceans protected as marine reserves from one to two per cent.Fish2fork, the campaigning sustainable restaurant guide, and the Blue Marine Foundation, which led the campaign to create a marine reserve around the Chagos Islands, are among the legacies of the film and continue to draw public attention to the state of the world’s fisheries and in finding ways to bring about improvements.
A recent study by the Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation, which partnered Puma Creative in holding the awards, concluded earlier this that by the spring of 2010 a total of 4.7 million people in the UK were aware of the documentary. The linkup between Fish2fork and Selfridges to run the Project Ocean campaign in the West End of London this year was another factor in the film winning the award and the £43,000 (€50,000) first prize.
A delighted Mr Murray said winning was “brilliant” and said it was “really an award for everyone” who was involved in making the film. He described the win as the “icing on the cake” to making a film that had succeeded in changing people’s ideas about fish and fishing. He added: “Documentary film makers aren’t just concerned with making films for entertainment. There’s a purpose behind it. This award recognises that desire to make a positive impact on the world.” Queen Noor and Mr Spurlock were joined on the judging panel by Orlando Bagwell, the Emmy award-winning filmmaker, Loretta Minghella, the director of Christian Aid, and Emmanuel Jal, the musician and social campaigner.
They said in announcing The End of the Line as the winner: “We all agreed that the prize should go to the film that was most beautifully crafted, that carried a message of global importance, that delivered a call to action that must be heeded, that delivered on that call to action to create actual awareness and, as the award suggests, impact. “It is for this reason that the 2011 PUMA Creative Impact Award goes to a movie that stays with you long after the credits have rolled. It is a film that has and will continue to influence and shape the actions of individuals, the choices of governments, of the media, and of industry. Hopefully with this prize, the great work that has begun can continue.”
Mr Clover, whose book The End of the Line was the inspiration for the documentary, said: “I would like to pay tribute to Rupert Murray, Claire Lewis, Claire Furguson, the creative people who took my book and made a film out of it. They made a film that makes people feel as angry about what is happening to the sea as my book did. I’d like to thank in particular Christo Hird, our executive producer, who saw the potential social impact all along and helped us to achieve it beyond our wildest dreams.
Clover continues “Our two legacy projects of the film, the Blue Marine Foundation - founded by two other producers of the film, Chris Gorell Barnes and George Duffield - and Fish2fork could not have come into being without the whole team making the film as good as it was.”
“Jochen Zeitz, chairman of the board at Puma, the sportswear company, said: “Documentary film is such an influential medium because it allows the public to emotionally connet with the subject matter. We hope that with the PUMA.Creative Impact award we can help to inspire positive change in the world.” The End of the Line was on a shortlist of five documentaries. Burma VJ came second with a special commendation from the judges. The Age of Stupid, Trouble the Water and The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court were the other shortlisted films.
The film, The End of the Line, achieved lasting change in consumer attitudes to buying fish, a study has shown.
The ground-breaking exposé of over-fishing also provoked companies to change their sourcing policies and had a significant impact on political awareness of the problem of declining catches of wild fish.
Over a million people have now seen the documentary, according to the study by the Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation, thought it was initially watched by less than 10,000 people in the cinema.
By spring last year a total of 4.7 million people in the UK, nine per cent of the British public, were aware of it, though a combination of media coverage, campaigning on social media and television screenings.
Researchers calculated that for every person who saw the film, 510 knew about it. The documentary film, based on the book by Charles Clover, had a budget of £1 million but generated at least £4 million pounds-worth of press and media coverage.
Its impact and reach extended even further over the last year and most recently it was an inspiration for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s 15-show Big Fish Fight series on Channel 4.
Politicians, multi-national companies, celebrities and millions of individuals were all influenced by the film in the way they think about fish. It persuaded several big businesses to switch to sustainable sources of fish and raised awareness within the Houses of Parliament, the European Commission and international marine protection agencies, the study found. “The End of the Line is a film which punched way above its weight in terms of press attention and awareness, above and beyond the size of the film audience,” the report concluded.
“Evidence shows The End of The Line persuades audiences of the importance of the issue of over-fishing and of the need to change their purchasing patterns.” Watching the film persuaded audiences to promise dramatic changes to the way they bought fish and it continued to exert a strong influence even a year later, the study by the Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation found.
The impact was strongest among those who went into the film oblivious to the problems of overfishing. The overall commitment to buy sustainable fish rose from 43 per cent to 84 per cent among audiences seeing the film but among those unaware of overfishing it rose from 17 per cent to 82 per cent.
Research with a focus group provided further detail and showed long-term effects. Attitudes towards sustainable purchasing “completely changed” on seeing the film and a year later people in the group reported that they were keeping to their promise to buy from sustainable sources.
Waitrose announced a 15 per cent increase in sustainable fish sales in the month after the film’s June 2009 release in the UK. It and other supermarkets enjoyed a rise in sustainable fish sales over 2009 and 2010 and the film was said to be one of the reasons, though it was impossible to quantify the impact.
Celebrities such as Stephen Fry, who tweeted his appreciation of the film, were influenced, the report found. Others included chefs such as Angela Hartnett, Joel Robuchon, Giorgio Locatelli and Tom Aikens who removed bluefin tuna from their menus as a result of the film.
In the corporate world the report identified several businesses that changes their policies because of the film’s release. Among them were Prêt A Manger, which announced “a total change in its fish buying policy”, and Whiskas cat food which switched to sustainable sources of fish.
The team behind the film set up the restaurant review website Fish2fork because while there was previously a way of assessing retailers, nobody had rated restaurants for the sustainability of what they served.
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.
By Charles Clover
Well, I turn up for the annual talks about tuna quotas at the notorious International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) - aka the International Conspiracy to Catch All the Tuna - in Paris. And guess what? I’m not allowed in.
Now, I’m used to being excluded from ICCAT’s deliberations as a member of the press. Quite used to that. But at all the meetings I have been to before, you are at least allowed into the room where the delegates meet to take coffee between sessions. If you are not, how are you supposed to do your job as a member of the press, canvassing all shades of opinion? How are you supposed to find anybody if the French security people on the outer door say you aren’t allowed inside? I decided to brush past, walk in anyway and find someone to remonstrate with.
The excuse offered this time by the genial Brazilian chairman of ICCAT, Fabio Hazin, was that 100 journalists turned up on the first day, Nov 16, and the little UN commission couldn’t possibly accommodate that many people. I take it as a great triumph for our film, The End of the Line - showing in Paris at an environmental film festival today by the way - that there were so many journos trying to cover ICCAT as normally it’s just me and a mad French film crew. This time the working of ICCAT have become international news. People wait to hear what the commission is going to do about the French payback - the 2500 tons of bluefin caught illegally that theoretically should be subtracted from the French quota next year. They wait to hear whether the commission will set a science-based quota for a change and whether it will finally accept that it is its job to managed the Atlantic’s population of sharks, of which a million are estimated to be killed each year for the Asian market. So what does ICCAT do in response to this new expression of interest by the world’s citizens? It shuts out their representatives, the press, unless, as I managed to do, they can argue that they are actually from a marine organisation. Anyone would think the world’s citizens had no interest in what is, legally, their own property, the sea.
One of the things about the global overfishing crisis that you get used to is that you can travel to the other side of the world and hear a story that you might well have been told about one of the fish you have at home. That’s what when I went to Buenos Aires last week for the premiere in Argentina of The End of the Line. The screening, organized by Marviva and Greenpeace, had a great turnout – 200 is good when there is a local derby football match going on in town. There were some good questions in the Q&A session at the end, in which I had expert backup from Greenpeace and the local affiliate of WWF.
When the questions got on to Argentine fisheries, about which I know very little, I was grateful to Guillermo Cañete, coordinator of the marine programme of the non- governmental Argentine Wildlife Foundation (the WWF affiliate) and genuinely fascinated by what he had to say. He told the audience that the Argentine hake fisheries of the southern Atlantic Ocean, still among the world leaders in the white fish market, are on the verge of collapse due in part to the indifference of the Argentine people, who are apparently more interested in eating beef and export most of their hake.
The decline of Merluccius hubbsi, known in Spanish here as “merluza,” threatens food security and biodiversity, though the Argentine hake is still the fourth largest in the world for white fish and first in the southern hemisphere. However, this wealth is sharply deteriorating, according to the National Institute of Fishing Research and Development (INIDEP). For every 5 adult hake there were in 1986, there is now just one. The reason is that younger fish have always been caught along with the adult hake. Even faced with the decline in fish stocks, the fishing companies have refused to use devices that would let smaller fish escape the nets.
Today, more than 60 percent of the hake caught are juveniles. “If nothing is done, the hake will collapse shortly,” Mr Cañete warned. If that happens, the first people to disappear will be fishermen. The Wildlife Foundation issued a call this year for Argentines to avoid buying hake filets less than 25 centimetres long, in order to discourage the capture of small fish.
Strange how familiar it all sounds to ears tuned to the northern hemisphere and to the annual discussions about cod and European hake. As we prepare for the launch of Fish2fork and the DVD of The End of the Line in Madrid next week (Nov 30) it is worth reflecting on the lessons from another country where hake is the favourite.
Commercial fishing around the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean ends today making it the largest “no-take” marine reserve in the world. The remaining fishing licenses will expire at midnight, following the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) decision to create the reserve in April.
The coalition government decided to proceed with the reserve, despite its austerity budget, after £3.5 million in private funding was offered by the Bertarelli Foundation, in a deal organized by the British-based Blue Marine Foundation, a charity spawned by the documentary film, The End of the Line.
The creation of the new sanctuary around the British Indian Ocean Territory, where commercial fishing will be banned, serves to highlight the slowness with which the international community has moved towards reaching a goal set almost a decade ago to protect marine life. In 2002, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development made a commitment to protect 10 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2012.
With only 15 months to go, it is estimated that just 1.17 per cent of the world’s oceans are under some form of protection, and a mere 0.08 per cent classified as “no-take” zones. Early on Saturday morning, government representatives at a UN conference on biodiversity held in Nagoya, Japan, put the 2012 deadline back to 2020.
Marine experts warned that it is scandalous that the original deadline will not be met, and said the 10 per cent target falls far short of what is needed. A third of ocean waters need protection to give marine species a fighting chance of survival, they said.
The shortfall between target and achievement was described as “massive” by Dr Heather Koldewey, manager of the Zoological Society of London’s international marine and freshwater conservation programme.
The failure to get anywhere near the original goal would result in “a massive loss of marine resources and, with that, an associated loss of people’s livelihoods”, she warned. “In terms of maintaining marine environments in some kind of operational form, science believes that actual protection should be in the region of 30 to 40 per cent,” she added.
Professor Charles Sheppard, from the University of Warwick also says more no-take marine reserves are vital to maintain sufficient life in our oceans.
He said: “Governments need to stand up to the fishing industry lobby before it is too late. We cannot afford to have any more delay by governments in honouring their commitments to protect areas of ocean. “Alistair Gammell, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Chagos campaign, said: “It is scandalous that governments are nowhere near the targets agreed to in 2002. The consequence of that failure is that fish and other species are declining in nearly every place you look.”
The Chagos reserve covers an area of 544,000 square kilometres - twice the size of Britain. Its waters are home to the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, as well as green sea turtles, dolphins and one of the world’s largest coral reefs - a habitat for more than 1,200 species of coral and fish.
It also has nearly 100 seamounts and underwater features thought to harbour undiscovered forms of life.
Marine life in the waters of the Chagos Archipelago has been hit hard by overfishing. The Zoological Society of London estimates that, over the past five years, around 60,000 sharks, an equivalent number of rays and many other species have been caught there as “by-catch” when fishing for tuna.
In an attempt to prevent the reserve becoming little more than a park on paper, a fisheries patrol vessel, paid for by private donation, will police the waters to ensure the fishing ban is not breached. In a statement last night a Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Government believes that a Marine Protected Area (MPA) is the right way ahead for furthering the environmental protection of the British Indian Ocean Territory. “As the world’s largest MPA, the UK’s example is encouraging others to do the same in other important and vulnerable areas.”
By Charles Clover
By Lewis Smith and Charles Clover of Fish2fork
Explosive advice to fisheries ministers has been issued telling them they have a legal obligation to ban bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean and Atlantic for at least three years.
European Union fisheries ministers meeting in Brussels were given a 20-page briefing by lawyers from the environmental law organisation ClientEarth outlining why they are obliged to act. Bluefin tuna stocks have declined rapidly in recent years to the point they are regarded as “dangerously depleted” and campaigners have been pressing for the fish to be better protected.
ClientEarth has now carried out a detailed analysis of European rules and a variety of agreements the EU has signed up to and has concluded that bluefin stocks are in such a parlous state an automatic fishing ban should be triggered from 2011 to 2013. The organisation also told ministers that France should specifically be barred from receiving any bluefin tuna catch quota in 2011 “to penalize France’s overfishing in 2007”. Italy should also be penalized for overfishing, though not as severely as its neighbour, the legal group said.
It’s lawyers wants ministers to press for a moratorium when the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meets next month to discuss bluefin fishing.
Nevertheless, sources close to the talks said ministers were likely to ignore the advice and were considering recommending a total catch quota of 6,000 to 13,500 tonnes. The quota this year was 13,500 tonnes despite scientists pressing for a maximum of 8,000 tonnes.
A ban on bluefin catches would be highly contentious and would cause fury among the nations that still hunt the fish. French fishermen are likely to be further incensed at being singled out for punative action for overfishing. Among the reasons cited by the environmental law organisation for demanding a ban on bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic are the terms of the ICCAT Convention.
The EU, rather than individual member nations, is a contracting party to ICCAT and one of the rules is that signatories must “cooperate in maintaining the populations of these fishes at levels which will permit the maximum sustainable catch for food and other purposes”.
ClientEarth advised that the European Commission, representing the EU, is legally bound to uphold the treaty which required the “precautionary approach” towards stocks to be taken. Bluefin tuna numbers are so low, the lawyers said, that this entails a ban on catching them. James Thornton, chief executive of ClientEarth, says: “The member states with a financial interest in the bluefin tuna fishery must not be allowed to stand in the way of the EU fulfilling its legal obligations in ICCAT negotiations.
“Bluefin tuna stocks in the Mediterranean are perilously low and unless there is an effective prohibition on fishing this magnificent species for at least the next three years it could take decades for the stock to recover. “Bluefin tuna has been recklessly overfished for many years. Member states whose fleets have overfished in the past must be penalised for their failure to enforce the rules. It is essential that no countries are allowed to go fishing for bluefin tuna in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean for the next few years to allow stocks to return to sustainable levels.”
Scientists at ICCAT concluded last year that the breeding stock of the species is so reduced that it is less than 15 per cent of levels before industrial scale fishing began.
ClientEarth stated in its ministerial briefing: “EU law therefore imposes a clear obligation on the EU to apply the precautionary approach and not to postpone taking action on bluefin tuna due to a lack of available data.”
Among the agreements the organisation cites as contributing to the conclusion bluefin fishing should be halted is the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which requires EU member states to ensure commercial fish stocks are maintained “within safe biological limits” and are kept healthy.
It added in its briefing: “As a result of the obligations under the Barcelona Convention and the SPA Protocol [Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean Protocol], the EU and its Member States are under a clear obligation to cooperate with ICCAT to take action to protect bluefin tuna.
Rome, Italy. June 9
Based on the announcement today that the European Union’s industrial fishermen have already reached their share of this year’s Atlantic bluefin tuna catch and must return to port at midnight tonight, WWF points out that this indicates the huge overcapacity of fleets - and is urging fishing countries to scrap their industrial vessels as soon as possible.
High-tech purse seine fishing boats - whose vast sack-like nets encircle shoals of bluefin tunas as they gather to spawn - set off for the high seas on May 15, but bad weather prevented them from catching any fish for the first ten days. The season was due to close a month later, on June 15.
“This early closure of the EU’s Atlantic bluefin tuna purse seine fishery does not point to recovery of the fish - it points to the gross overcapacity of fleets,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.
“That EU purse seine fleets have in the space of a week caught their whole annual quota of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean is further proof that these boats are simply not appropriate for this fishery and that the whole operation is entirely unsustainable - not to mention economically unviable.”
France’s purse seiners, for example, had already caught 1,456 tonnes by June 8 - some 86 per cent of their quota for the year - while Spain’s had caught 728 tonnes, over 90 per cent of their quota.
“Purse seiners are so hyper-efficient they leave no chance to the tunas they target in the peak spawning period when the fish are at their most fragile,” said Dr Tudela.
“The fact that these high-tech vessels are kept idle in port for more than 50 weeks a year is a total absurdity and shows the boats’ non-compatibility with a fish stock that is heavily depleted and in urgent need of recovery. The only reason the boat owners can afford to go out on the water at all is that they were largely built thanks to extensive EU subsidies in the first place.”
“WWF is calling for an immediate phase-out of purse seining in this fishery - and will use every lever at its disposal to push members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) when they meet in November in Paris to set the scrapping process in motion at once.”
A Greenpeace activist had to be airlifted to hospital after having a boat hook slice through his leg during violent clashes at sea with fishermen.
French fishing crews sank two Greenpeace inflatables and badly damaged another as the conservationists tried to prevent them catching Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Frank Hewetson, an activist on one of seven inflatables deployed by Greenpeace for the operation, was badly hurt when a gaffe hook pierced his leg.
He was then hauled the length of an inflatable as a fisherman pulled on the gaffe hook to bring the vessel closer. Greenpeace remains uncertain whether the injury was deliberate or an unintended consequence of wielding dangerous equipment in a close-quarters encounter.
In turn, Jean-Marie Avallone, the owner of French fishing boats, claimed a fisherman had been hurt when the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise rammed a trawler during a further clash yesterday.
Members of the conservation group questioned the claim and said they were unaware of any collision.
Mr Hewetson, who remains in hospital in Malta, was injured on Friday as activists attempted to free endangered bluefin tuna from a seine purse net and were met with a robust and armed response from the fishing crews.
Willie Mackenzie, an activist on board, wrote: “The fishermen reacted with a shocking level of violence and complete disregard for anyone’s safety. They attacked our inflatable boats.”
Olly Knowles, another activist trying to disrupt the tuna fishing fleets in the Mediterranean, said today: “Frank got a boat hook all the way through his leg. It made quite a hole. “A lot of the fishermen were very seriously armed with knives, clubs, and harpoons. There was a real intention to defend the net.”
The second confrontation took place yesterday as a cage full of bluefin tuna was towed towards the Tunisian coast to be added to a tuna ranch - where the live fish are fattened up for sale.
Greenpeace tried to cut away some of the ropes holding the net in place but they were again met by a robust response from the crews: “We were met with a less violent but still vigorous defence.”
It is the first time that Greenpeace has tried to free bluefin tuna from nets or cages and it marks a change in tactics for the group which has been frustrated by the continued failure of the European Union to stop issuing tuna quotas.
Atlantic bluefin tuna numbers are estimated to have slumped by at least 80 per cent since the Industrial Revolution and they have been especially hard hit by purse seine fishing. Research suggests fisheries are close to collapse and there are fears the fish may never be able to recover if severe limits on catching it are not introduced soon.
Fishing crews have been issued with month-long licences to catch bluefin tuna, which can fetch up to £100,000 each, until June 15 as the fish move into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic to spawn.
A spokesman for the Federation of Malta Aquaculture said: “The fishermen were acting within their rights and were doing nothing to provoke attention by these activists except for the fact that they were carrying exercising their trade.
“Greenpeace cannot pretend that such actions are measured and or peaceful. They are pure and simply designed to cause economic loss with violence against innocent operators.”
Atlantic bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus, can swim at speeds of more than 40mph, reach more than 13 feet in length, and weigh more than 550lbs, but numbers are dwindling.
Watch a video clip here
By Lewis Smith
To the Glasgow fishing exhibition, Trawler Central. A huge hall full of big diesels and nets. I felt I owed the fishermen a visit as I have just occasionally had a pop at the Scottish fishing industry. The Fishing 2010 press release said I was brave to go. We screened a 52-minute version of The End of the Line in a theatre that was part of the fishing exhibition. On the panel: Bertie Armstrong from the Scottish Fishermens’ Federation, Philip MacMullen from Seafish, Louize Hill from WWF and Callum Roberts from York University.
Let’s deal with the routine stuff first: Scottish fishermen have turned the corner and are doing their best to bring about the recovery of the cod. Absolutely, said I, credit where it is due. There is no evidence that marine reserves work for migratory species. Nonsense, said Callum and I, the only place in the world they say that is Aberdeen and they’ve no evidence for it. Why not set one up and do a proper experiment? Why don’t fishermen get any credit for doing good things when they do? Well, how often am I supposed to praise the Scotttish conservation credits scheme? I was the first journalist to praise Scottish fishermen for going to Brussels and arguing that they should be given more quota if they fished more selectively. I said a couple of years ago that the British fishing industry seemed to have turned the corner after the disgraceful situation of a decade or more ago with up to 50 per cent of the cod taken from the North Sea illegally. How many times do you want me to say it?
Two things that were said stood out for me that day. One was said by a West Coast trawlerman and scallop dredger. “You’re the one who’s obsequious to the public,” he said. I confess I got very annoyed by that. After all, hadn’t I spent years writing about what I considered to be the scandal of overfishing long before anyone else seemed to know about it or a publisher would publish it? Hadn’t I spent two years with a number of others turning a not-for-profit film that turned that book into a film? I’m not sure which bit was being obsequious to the public. As far as I was concerned, I was attempting to report the truth and the public were decent enough to take up the message of the film because they believed our case that overfishing was a much more serious problem than we recognised before.
Several Scottish fishermen seemed to hear an RP accent and assume one has made a fortune out of the film when most of us had actually made sacrifices to tell the truth. The other thing that surprised me was when Louize Hill of WWF said that Scotland was “not that bad,” or words to that effect, when it came to fisheries. This may have been a slip of the tongue. What she probably meant was that the cod in the North Sea may have turned the corner. But I would not like WWF to think that Scotland did not have fisheries disasters as bad as any in the world. You have only to look at the Firth of Clyde, just a few miles downriver from Glasgow. The cod, haddock and whiting are now gone, collapsed to a state where the US government would have long ago closed the fishery to any kind of mobile gear, ie trawls.
Langoustines are now the staple for both the creel and trawl fisheries. Yet Marine Science Scotland reported this year that even the langoustine is being exploited unsustainably in the Clyde – and in many other parts of Scotland. The discard rate of whitefish is colossal. When you have fished out all the fish and then the shellfish, what will you have left but jellyfish and plankton? The Scottish Government continues to be in denial about the disaster that is Scotland’s West Coast.
If it were to recognise what its own scientists are saying it might have to do something about fishing effort, which would play poorly with its core constituency. It would be disconcerting to think that any environmental groups nourished any of the same delusions.
Italy has banned its high-technology fishing fleet from fishing for bluefin tuna this year. The decision, announced before the month-long fishing season began last weekend, means that 49 large purse-seine vessels capable of rounding up whole shoals of endangered bluefin will remain in port. The Italian catch quota is being given to “artisanal” vessels, fishing with long-lines.
Fishermen from the purse-seiners, who have tended to fish using spotter planes so they can catch the maximum amount of tuna, will be paid unemployment benefit.
A large number of skippers will receive nearly £5 million in compensation for decommissioning their vessels, with 30 out of the 49 being decommissioned by the end of this year.
Rumour has it that fishermen were content to stop fishing not only because they were paid handsomely to do so but because the local sub-stock of bluefin has disappeared from the fishing grounds.
EU eyes have been pointed on the Italian fleet, with a much smaller bluefin quota this year and the authorities are understood to have been wary of provoking legal action by getting into illegal fishing scandals like those which dogged the industry in 2007 and 2008.
The environmental group WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, said Italy’s decision in tackling the bluefin’s decline should be seen as a good example which other countries should follow.
Dr Sergi Tudela of WWF Mediterranean said: “Italy’s decision to keep its purse seiners ashore is to be applauded and upheld as an example to follow.”
“Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks cannot resist for much longer – by all accounts the species is endangered, with current populations dwindling at less than 15 per cent of what they once were. Nevertheless this year fleets are sanctioned to catch another 13,500 tonnes of fish, even when the rules are still widely violated.”
“WWF calls on ICCAT – the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the regional management organization in charge of the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery – and its members to respect their commitments to sustainable fisheries management.”
“A sound recovery plan for the exhausted species must finally be imposed when ICCAT meets in Paris in November – including above all a dramatic cut in catches to well below 8,000 tonnes.”
The latest advice from renowned international scientists shows that an annual catch of 8,000 tonnes would give the Atlantic bluefin tuna at best a 50 per cent chance of recovery.
Cat food flavoured with bluefin tuna, an endangered species, is being advertised online by the food giant Mars in the United States despite undertakings by the company that it will phase out seafood from unsustainable sources.
US readers of Fish2fork have pointed out the following link to catfood with “natural” bluefin tuna flavour: http://www.whiskas.com/meal_time/trays/.
Last month Mars Petcare announced in Britain that it was now committed globally to using only sustainably sourced fish across the Whiskas and Sheba brand ranges by 2020. By the end of this year, the eco-label denoting Marine Stewardship Council certification would appear on packs.
Mark Johnson, managing director of the company, told environmental groups in a letter: “As Europe’s largest petcare business we consider that we are in a position to affect (sic) real change where governments and regulators acting along may not be able to.”
Willie Mackenzie of Greenpeace commented: “Continuing to encourage the use of endangered species for catfood seems rather at odds with Whiskas’ recent announcement that they will only take fish from sustainable stocks, and eventually get round to sourcing all its fish sustainable by 2020.
“Atlantic bluefin is collapsing now. There probably won’t be any left by 2020, so Whiskas may find it impossible to get a sustainable source for their ‘natural bluefin flavour’ very, very soon.”
A spokesman for Mars Petcare US said that the following statement was valid from the time of its policy announcement on March 31 – though it has not been released to the press before as far as we know.
“Sustainability is a journey and we’ve worked quickly to identify a viable and sustainable replacement for WHISKAS® Blue Fin Tuna Flavor in Sauce®. We’re pleased to announce today that we’re removing Blue Fin Tuna from the WHISKAS® line up and offering cats and cat lovers a more sustainable WHISKAS® variety made with real Pacific albacore tuna.”
The spokesman was unable to say what has become of the ahi tuna flavoured Whiskas also advertised online. Ahi is a Hawaiian term used to describe both yellowfin tuna and the endangered bigeye tuna.
Pew calls conference on global trade in endangered species a major disappointment
Doha, Qatar - 26 March, 2010 -The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) concluded without providing any trade protections whatsoever for severely depleted Atlantic bluefin tuna and four vulnerable species of sharks – scalloped hammerhead, oceanic white tip, porbeagle and spiny dogfish.
“We cannot continue to empty our oceans without consequence,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group. “The CITES treaty has historically protected species. At this meeting, governments abandoned conservation and chose to protect trade instead. The imperative to safeguard the larger iconic species increases with every catch.”
CITES has listed marine species previously - including seahorses, queen conch, sturgeon and humphead wrasse - although it has traditionally focused more on land-based species including elephants and tigers. This year, however, there were more commercial marine species proposed for protection than at any meeting in the Convention’s 35 years.
The shark fin trade - responsible for the killing up to 73 million sharks annually - and global demand for shark meat continue to threaten scalloped hammerhead, oceanic white tip, porbeagle and spiny dogfish sharks. A CITES Appendix II listing would have required countries exporting shark products to ensure that international trade is legal and would not threaten the survival of those species. While the porbeagle proposal was approved in committee by a single-vote margin, CITES delegates rejected all four proposals by the end of the final plenary session.
“Despite fast declining populations of the ocean’s apex predators, CITES government delegates turned a blind eye to science,” said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group. “Four threatened species of sharks were refused protections even though the evidence of international trade’s harmful effects was plentiful. Inaction can and will set these sharks on a course toward total population collapse.”
CITES delegates had the opportunity to prohibit all international trade in bluefin tuna, but they rejected the Appendix I proposal.
Overfishing, illegal fishing and the growing demand for high-end raw bluefin as sushi and sashimi has fueled increased catches, further depleting this shrinking population. CITES received reports that the science is undeniable that the Atlantic bluefin tuna qualifies for the highest level of protection, but the governments voted against the bluefin proposal.
In the wake of last week’s failed attempt at CITES to prohibit international trade in bluefin tuna, the Pew Environment Group today will launch a new campaign to protect breeding populations of bluefin in the Gulf of Mexico - the fish’s only known spawning ground in the western Atlantic Ocean.
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.
After a series of defeats for conservationists on other marine species, the porbeagle shark was listed for protection by the UN body that oversees international trade in wildlife.
Delegates attending the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meeting in Doha, voted more than two-to-one to list the porbeagle under its Appendix II, which requires exporting countries to ensure that international trade is legal and will not harm the survival of the species.
The porbeagle proposal succeeded by only one vote, after extensive lobbying for 18 months by EU delegations particularly Germany, and could still be overturned in plenary on Thursday.
Sources say Canada, one of the most trenchant fishing countries and an ally of Japan on other votes, surprised everyone during the debate by saying that a CITES listing would help with their national management of the NW Atlantic porbeagle stock.
Earlier in the day, delegates voted to reject similar bids to protect the hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks, favoured by the Asian finning trade. The spiny dogfish also failed to get protection. Currently, harvesting and commerce of the porbeagle – a temperate water shark which gestates for nine months and can live up to 65 years is unregulated internationally.
Stocks have collapsed to about ten percent of historic levels in the Mediterranean and the northeast Atlantic, and have declined elsewhere. Fished mainly for its meat rather than its fins, the species is listed as “critically endangered” in those regions, and as “vulnerable” globally.
As with all the marine proposals, the porbeagle bid was opposed by Japan, with Argentina, China and Iceland also speaking out against it.
The measure was submitted by the European Union, a major market for porbeagle meat, along with the small island nation Palau, for which sharks are more valuable alive — to attract scuba tourism — than dead.
At the previous meeting of CITES in The Hague in 2007, the species was denied Appendix II status in a tight vote, as was the spiny dogfish, which was also getting a second chance in Doha.
Canada noted that new data on the biological status of the species had convinced it to reverse position after 2007 and favour trade protection.
Both the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), and the secretariat of CITES also favoured the listing. “Appropriate management is urgently needed,” an FAO official said.
The Pacific nation of Palau, which last year created the first ever shark sanctuary, joined the United States in introducing the proposal to list the scalloped hammerhead shark and four look-alike species. It called on countries to protect the species so they can be fished into the future.
Japan, which has already successfully seen off an export ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna and regulations on the coral trade, argued that better enforcement, not trade restrictions was the answer. It also complained it would be difficult to differentiate the hammerheads from other species and would deprive poor fishing nations of much needed income.
It was joined in opposing the proposal by other countries dependent on the trade, including Singapore and Indonesia which catches the most sharks.
The voting was as follows:
• Porbeagle sharks passed by a vote of 86 for, 42 against and
• Scalloped hammerhead sharks failed by a vote of 75 for, 45
against and 14 abstentions. Known for their distinctive silhouettes, these sharks have declined by as much as 98% in some regions. Great and smooth hammerheads, vulnerable to overfishing because of the similarity of their fins, also were included in this proposal as “look-alike” species.
• Oceanic whitetip sharks, which failed by a vote of 75 for,
51 against and 16 abstentions. Mostly because their large fins have been valued at $45 - $85 per kilogram, oceanic whitetip populations have declined by as much as 90 percent in the central Pacific Ocean and 99 percent in the Gulf of Mexico.
• Spiny dogfish sharks, which failed by a vote of 60 for, 67
against and 11 abstentions. Spiny dogfish has one of the longest gestation periods for any vertebrate on the planet - up to two years - making the species extremely susceptible to overfishing.
Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group, said: “Sharks have been on our planet for more than 400 million years, but if governments do not act, many shark species will not last. Most species reproduce late in life, have few young and simply do not have the capacity to recover from commercial extraction and global trade “The shark fin trade which is responsible for the killing of up to 73 million sharks annually remains largely unregulated,” he added.
“Despite scientific data showing that many shark populations are plummeting, international fisheries management bodies and now international conservation forums have favored commerce over protection. Individual nations need to answer the call to protect threatened species if sharks are to remain in our oceans.”
Oliver Knowles from Greenpeace International said: “The devastating result this morning sees hammerheads and oceanic whitetip sharks join the Atlantic bluefin, and red and pink corals, as victims of short-term economic interest winning out over efforts to save species from extinction at this Cites meeting.”
We have a great news clip from Al Jazeera discussing the outcome of CITES with a big focus on bluefin tuna. Our very own Charles Clover joins the debate discussing the disappointing outcome from this year’s meeting and suggests what the future may hold for this amazing fish.
Have a little look here