David Levy – Beware of messengers who bring “good news” – June 2013

The reported improvement in cod stocks in the North Sea by the Marine Stewardship Council and local fishermen should be viewed for what it is. Namely, an attempt to announce good news too early so that Government can be persuaded to once more reopen the fishing grounds for cod fishing.

We learn nothing from history, as has been demonstrated by Charles Clover’s book The End of the Line which shows that where fish stocks have recovered they are promptly over-fished again within a short space of time. Which means greed rules and the lessons are not learnt.

How I know that this is true is because our Government led the other EU countries in the dilution of two important management tools. The first is known as “Descriptor 3” in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which is meant to define a stock that is in a healthy condition, and the second is the definition of a healthy fish stock for determining Maximum Sustainable Yield (i.e. fishing quotas). The UK and EU governments have prevaricated on these subjects, and the end result from the perspective of genuinely reforming of the Common Fisheries Policy is that they have not even defined an age and size profile of a healthy fish stock (e.g. how many large adult fish a stock needs to successfully reproduce and rebuild its population).

It may interest you to know that although world experience points to marine reserves as being the best fish management tool, less than 2% of our seas have highly protected no-take reserves, and there is little appetite amongst government agencies to deliver them. Remember Fish Fight’s lobby for Marine Conservation Zones? 127 MCZMCZ Marine Conservation Zone sites proposed, and only 31 considered by the UK Government!

Let me tell you what Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall fails to tell you… Marine Conservation Zones are not highly protected marine reserves, and in most of the sites currently identified for protection around our sea coasts — which have been proposed and created via the Habitats Directive — fishing can and will continue.

Beware of so called Good News, and of those who bring it. My generation is able to look beyond the story to seek the truth.

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