David Levy – What links us all to the Horn of Africa? – Apr 17

I know something of market life in the SW England Region.

It’s a dying arena of selling, superseded by supermarkets and their bulk buying power. It also has something to do with ambience and buying all in the same place. We’ve changed, and are now less tolerant of where we spend time. Even supermarkets are changing. Now when I am shopping I have to avoid endless staff filling hoppers with the online orders sent for home delivery. You’ve changed.

The reason I have started this blog in such a strange manner is because we are all subject to change, and yet we persist with patterns of habit despite evidence that we have been left behind. Those market traders get up early every day and set up their stalls with commendable determination, and then spend their days with diminishing returns. It is soul destroying for them. I have real empathy.

If I apply this thinking to the fishing industry, it helps me to understand the reason why it has so relentlessly over-fished our national resource. Skippers and their crew follow their gut reaction as to where to go for a large catch. They do so to pay mortgages and loans, yet despite “fish finders” they return with a catch that fails to satisfy. So why do they continue?

It’s akin to the market trader. They feel trapped in a lifestyle, and cannot see alternatives.

These alternatives have been provided by the conservation lobby, scientists and governmental review — but ignored and over-ridden by the fishing industry. Why would they act and respond in this way?

The answer has to be that those who do the job don’t want to be told by those who don’t do the job, even if it makes commercial and economic sense.

The only way they would change attitudes is if governance made them fish like farmers do on land.

That is — to operate with fallow areas at sea, to protect spawning and nursery grounds, to abandon trawling and revert to line fishing.

Government needs to take the lead and make them change for their own sakes. They will not change practice as things stand. They are trapped by work and social inertia.

If Brexit turns the fishing industry to the North American approach to days only at sea linked to seasonal catch, then change could happen.

For success it would need enforcement, with high financial penalties for breaches in fishing and catch outside the rules. In America the fishing boats are accompanied by enforcement officers and vessels, and the fines make illegal catch prohibitive.

Attitudes have to change, and Government has to lead the way.

The prospect of an industry changing for its own good is not borne out by the global grab for marine resources. We are heading for a world crash in fish food security. Already the poorer nations are suffering, and you do not have to look far as to the response.

Piracy around the Horn of Africa is directly linked to redundant fisheries in the region. If that is what you want, that is what we will get.

Think about it, and expand this to other regions of the world.

David Levy

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