David Levy – Are marine NGOs up to the job? – May 2014

Ocean2012 has dissolved. No, not in sea water, but because the reform process for the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is over, as is the reform of fishing subsidies dispensed by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, bar the crossing of the t’s and dotting of the i’s.

To celebrate this event, a closing meeting of Ocean2012 was convened on Friday 11th April in London in the PEW office. John Stansfield and myself attended.

What interested me during the presentations was when Ocean2012 looked at their aims when they started, and then at what they had achieved when the process had finished. Not the same result at all.

This points to the major difference between Marinet and other NGOs and marks us out as being difficult to partner. We look at the problem and campaign for the solutions and do not deviate from our path.

Greenpeace, WWF, PEW, Ocean2012 and RSPB were the major players attending along with C.O.A.S.T, New Economics Foundation (NEF), The Inshore Fishermen’s Association, and Frankie’s Fish and Chips. Most were there to back slap and congratulate themselves on “achieving a campaign unequalled in environmental history, and a model of NGO co-operation showing what can be delivered with this approach”.

I would have agreed, if they had really delivered. The problem is that the gaps in the pavement of the CFP are still sufficiently substantial to allow anyone to “slip through” if they wish, despite what is said in writing. The challenge which confronts us now is enforcement, data gathering and its verification — all conveniently glossed over by those present, with two exceptions.

The first to make a presentation was Marinet. We focused on the reality of the new CFP — which meant that the timing of reforms is too vague, as is the detail of where and how the data is collated, who enforces the breaches of regulations, and whether there is a real appetite for change. Our conclusion has been — too little, and too late.

We then went on in our presentation to address the situation beyond our immediate seas and to consider the global picture, and the research we are doing into changing the world’s laws of the seas/oceans in order to protect fish stocks for future generations. NEF chose to support Marinet when their turn came to make their presentation, especially on fish food security.

John Stansfield (Marinet) will be co-ordinating with Chris Williams (NEF) to see where we can work collaboratively in the coming year. The difficulty which exists is that although we agree on so many important points, NEF still have PEW funding for data analysis — and we do not.

It could be we need to work with Blackfish training volunteers to achieve our aim of monitoring and verifying fishing data and practices during the coming year, and this may prove to be attractive to NEF as well.
The blinding realisation is that what monies are available are only given to the big players, unless you are a scientific organisation. Even then, the fact is that these NGOs are working together on joint projects which deliver on the small scale detail, but avoid the specifics of the essential problems of marine management.

Why is that so?

NGOs are reliant on Government, and/or charitable money, to pay for their buildings, salaries, and their commitment to provide data after gaining government research projects.

At one time their operating monies were provided by the public, but not today. So they are trapped by their own decisions.

Marinet is not restricted by connections to charitable or Government money. We can therefore campaign on whatever front we wish. They cannot.

Our restriction is based on our ambition and whether our membership can support our campaigning direction with appropriate donations. To reach for the moon, we will need more members and financial backing.
David Levy

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