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The End of the Line helps creation of world’s largest marine reserve

Talks are at an advanced stage between the Foreign Office, the Bertarelli Foundation and the Blue Marine Foundation about funding the creation of the largest marine reserve in the world around the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Watch a video of the Chagos here:

Chagos Marine Protected Area from Jon Slayer on Vimeo.

The Bertarelli Foundation, presided over by Ernesto Bertarelli, whose team twice won the America’s Cup, has agreed to provide £3.5 million in funding to cover the policing of the new Marine Protected Area, the creation of which was one of the last acts of the outgoing Labour administration.

The coalition has been faced with finding ways of making good the shortfall caused by ending lucrative tuna fishing licences which were providing £750,000 a year in revenue so a no-take reserve could be established in what has been described as Britain’s Galapagos or Great Barrier Reef.

No contracts have yet been signed between the Bertarelli Foundation, Blue and the Government but they are in the process of being drawn up and the Foreign Secretary and the Bertarelli Foundation approved the deal in principle last week.

Since the announcement of the creation of the reserve by David Miliband, when Foreign Secretary, there has been the discovery by scientists from the Zoological Society for London of a significant concentration of sea mounts within the 200 mile limit of the BIOT, many of which are expected to be hotspots for biodiversity.

Alex D Rogers of ZSL said: “Our modelling of the global distribution of seamounts indicates that there are up to 86 large seamounts and over 200 smaller knolls in the Chagos area. Seamounts are often important hotspots of biological activity in the oceans and may host diverse communities of animals in coral gardens or cold-water coral reefs. Furthermore, our modelling of the suitability of deep-sea habitat for octocorals (sea fans and gorgonians), indicates that the Chagos area is also highly favourable for these animals. This raises the exciting prospect that through closing the Chagos Archipelago and surrounding waters to fishing, significant deep-water habitats may have been protected within the Indian Ocean, a region subject to widespread and potentially increasing exploitation of deep-water resources.”

Henry Bellingham, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for the Overseas Territories at the Foreign Office, said “This Government is committed to the Marine Protected Area in the British Indian Ocean Territory. As the world’s largest marine reserve, the MPA will bring huge environmental benefits to the Indian Ocean and to the world. “It will double the global coverage of the world’s oceans benefiting from full protection. We hope that the UK’s example encourages others to do the same in other vulnerable areas. We are very grateful to the Bertarelli family, their foundation and to the Blue Marine Foundation for their interest and we look forward to working with them. This Government wants to form innovative partnerships with the private sector to deliver ambitious objectives.This is a great example of how this could work in practice.”

Charles Clover, founding trustee of the Blue Marine Foundation, said: “Towards the end of last year I was beginning to doubt whether a marine protected area around the Chagos archipelago, which includes half the remaining unspoiled coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, would ever come into being, even if one was declared. I was worried that in a time of austerity no incoming government could sign up to the public spending involved. I told George Duffield and Chris Gorell Barnes, two of the producers on our film, The End of the Line, that this amazing breakthrough in the protection of the oceans might now not happen because of what is to a government a relatively small amount of money.”

Charles continues “I said surely there has to be someone, perhaps even a single individual, who takes the plight of the oceans seriously enough and has the money to fund this? George went out and found Ernesto Bertarelli and his foundation who have the vision and the pockets to match. Hats off to them. The Indian Ocean, its fisheries and coral reefs are not in good shape and the protection of such a fabulous and still largely unspoiled area in the middle of the ocean will help to protect its biodiversity and give its fisheries some respite against attrition. We hope other nations around the Ocean follow suit.”

The Blue Marine Foundation was set up as a result of The End of the Line and before the Chagos funding crisis came along to look at private sector solutions in the oceans which could create reserves or improve the sustainability of fisheries. It will be trying to put together other deals and to persuade more boats to fly its flag in the future.

The Blue Marine Foundation was founded by Charles Clover, George Duffield & Chris Gorell Barnes in order to fund the creation of a global network of marine reserves and to provide private sector solutions for the sea.

The Blue marine Foundation has appointed 5 trustees: -Tom Appleby, Lord Deben, DR Arlo Brady, Kate Goldsmith, and Mark Rose.


WWF calls for industrial fishing boats to be scrapped as EU calls an end to bluefin season after one week

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.”


Commerce Trumps Science at CITES, Threatened Sharks and Bluefin Tuna Still at Risk

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.


Watch news clip on CITES and bluefin tuna

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


Charles Clover’s update from CITES

Greetings from Doha, Qatar, where some 120 countries, so far, are meeting to discuss the protection of the world’s endangered species.

This is the beginning of discussions which will decide the fate of 42 proposals over the next two weeks to restrict trade in species ranging from the polar bear to Mexican plants used in lipstick and, via the ever controversial big cats and ivory, to this year’s most controversial species, those caught in commercial fisheries, including several species of shark and the Atlantic bluefin tuna.

As expected, the bluefin is causing the most excitement, particularly in Japan, where some 80 per cent of the journalists booked to be here are from. Japan has a delegation of more than 50.
They have been busy. They have been placing stories saying that the attempt to ban international trade in the bluefin is an attack on the Japanese custom of eating fish. Well, it isn’t, it about the failure of soft management for a species that goes for a lot of hard currency.
They have been placing stories to worry the West Africans, saying that the Spanish and French purse seine fleets which fish in the Mediterranean will come to their waters if trade is banned, ignoring the fact that these are not long-distance, ocean-going vessels and it is up to the West Africans who they allow to fish in their waters, anyway. It looks as if Japan is panicking.

There have been indications that the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is increasingly getting fed up with the allegations from fishing countries that CITES is no place to regulate commercial fish species(CITES already regulates trade in 24,000 plant species and 4,000 animals and has done since 1975.)

Willem Wijnstekers, its secretary general, told the opening plenary that he found comments that CITES should not get involved in regulating bluefin “really worrying” and he totally disagreed with that comment. The Secretariat is increasingly calling the tune. It has commissioned a review of whether the EU’s complicated and Machiavellian proposal endorsing an Appendix 1 listing of bluefin - but placing lots of conditions on it - is legal. That is expected in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, we can expect Japan to become shriller still in defense of the disgracefully-managed trade in its favorite sushi.

Charles Clover


Deep sea fish suffer far greater damage than was first thought

Most deep sea fisheries are unsustainable and should be closed, a new report says.

The call comes after a 25-year-long marine study revealed that commercial fishing in the north-east Atlantic could be damaging species at much greater depths than previously believed.

Moray eel - Deep sea fish suffer far greater damage than was first thought

Moray eel - the study found numbers of one species of eel were down by half

Numbers of deep-water species living a kilometre below the reach of trawlers are apparently being affected by fishing practices, the new study found.

Although scientists have known that commercial fishing does affect deep-water fish populations they have now discovered it is occuring at much greater depths.

Populations of north-east Atlantic commercial deep-water fish such as black scabbardfish, orange roughy and roundnose grenadier have dwindled since deep-water fishing started in the area in the late 1980s but a quota system wasn’t introduced until 2003.

Dr David Bailey of the University of Glasgow, who led the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, said:

“Commercial fishing may have wider effects than anyone previously thought, affecting fish which we assumed were safely beyond the range of fishing boats. We were extremely surprised by this result and believe that it has important implications for how we manage the oceans.”

Deep-water fish living off the west coast of Ireland were monitored by Natural Environment Research Council-owned ships from 1977 until 1989 before any fishery was operating in the region.

Researchers checked the same area again from 1997 until 2002 using exactly the same methods and the results were then compared as part of an EU-led project to study deep-sea species. Continue reading ‘Deep sea fish suffer far greater damage than was first thought’


Shark alert - which predator is to blame?

Hungry sharks have attacked three people in the past three weeks off Sydney, Australia.

One of the explanations offered by the BBC is that cleaner waters and a ban on commercial fishing, which has attracted more fish to the area, could be responsible for luring the oceans’ big predators closer to Sydney’s beaches and harbour. 

That is an extraordinarily cynical explanation, if you think about it, and one the BBC should be ashamed for reporting.

If you follow the logic of the Australian source quoted by the BBC, it would be safer to go polluting the sea until the water turns brown and to have fish exterminated within miles of the shore so that at least you aren’t attacked by sharks. Bruce, do me a favour.

There is a much more plausible explanation contained in the two-yearly report on the state of the world’s fish stocks published today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The report shows that the number of the world’s fish stocks ranked as over-fished, depleted or fully exploited increased to 80 per cent – a rise of three per cent in two years.

The only sensible explanation for this is the world’s fishing fleets remain out of control and politicians are unaware or unwilling to do something about the problem.

Check out another report today, Hungry Oceans: What happens when the prey is gone?, compiled from scientific sources by the environmental group Oceana. This shows that scientists around the world are reporting ocean predators emaciated from lack of food, vulnerable to disease and lacking the energy to reproduce.

Scrawny dolphins, whales, tuna and bass have been reported along coastlines around the world.

At the same time, we continue to hunt their prey, the small fish such as herring, menhaden, anchovy and sand eel which the major predators depend on, to provide feedstock for the fast-growing fish farming industry. We have forgotten to leave enough fish in the sea for predator fish.

Isn’t lack of food the most likely explanation for the strange behaviour of sharks off Sydney?

And isn’t the creation of larger areas, offshore, where the bounty of the sea can recover a more plausible way of solving the problem than allowing the seas off Sydney to get polluted again and over-fishing to resume?