David Levy – Marine NGOs must give leadership based on principle, not consensus – July 2013

From the moment I joined Marinet, I responded very much like I have heard many others respond since. Incredulity that we fail to function together on issues.

This applies right across the NGO Environmental Movement. Somehow we have become fragmented, and we each focus exclusively on “home issues” which we guard almost selfishly. The only exceptions from this situation are umbrella organisations that operate on the principle of the lowest common denominator, and issue agreed statements on this basis.

Government departments, nationally and internationally, must be very happy with this situation because we are failing to present them with a united NGO front. They can, and do pick us off at will, and I have watched in despair whilst UK marine NGOs have been duped by government over serious marine conservation issues.

Within Marinet, I was told by others that we must trust government to deliver and we should be part of the process — even though I knew the system was designed to fail. I have had to sit back whilst my observations came to fruition, and I have no pleasure in saying I told you so.

The fact is that the 2009 UK Marine and Coastal Access Act, the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive have been watered down and made weak by “negotiation” over their implementation, and each one of these pillars of marine law will fail to arrest the continually shrinking size of fish stocks in European waters.

The simple fact is that without major “no-take marine reserves” fish populations will be fished out by quotas – because fishing to quotas cannot provide sustainable fishing (known as fishing to a “Maximum Sustainable Yield” or MSY) because fishing in this manner does not re-establish a good age profile in the fish population i.e. retaining older fish in each stock, which is vital because older fish produce more eggs and are the most fecund members in each fish population.

Now however Marinet has a real opportunity to take on something we can campaign on without restriction, and with no holds barred.

Subsidies are propping up this sick industry, and recent discussions in Europe reveal that many countries want the river of money to continue to flow in order to maintain “fishing as usual”, and are not interested in reforms at all.

We have to convince the members of the EU that fishing subsidies should still continue, but that it should be redirected at conservation measures and associated management strategies so that there will be a future.

As things stand, there will be a continuing collapse in fish populations. And, we will continue to export our style of selfish rape of the seas around the world. Therefore please get behind our petition on our website and let’s start building for the future.

David Levy

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