The End of the Line
If you, like me, throw your phone out of the nearest window every time you see a Brexit headline, you will not have heard the news this week about the Common Fisheries Policy (devastated, I can tell). This policy basically controls where European ships are allowed to fish and, given our current Brexit-fuelled turmoil, the borders are somewhat blurred, and the EU has been allowed to control the UK's fishing policy for the two-year transition period post-Brexit. Full disclosure, before you abandon ship, I have no intention of debating the politics of this situation or the government’s decision in any great depth. Despite partaking in some dutiful reading, I was still left at an absolute loss. The multi-literalist in me believes that a unified effort is necessary to protect the oceans, but I also admit that Europe has had some truly daft fishing policies in the past. In light of my own opinion, I'm going to leave you sitting comfortably on the fence.
However, politics and borders aside, this is an environmental issue. The real sharks are deep sea bottom trawlers. These particular fishermen drag their net behind their fishing boat catching thousands of fish as they go. Sadly, because of depleting fish stocks, industrial trawlers are travelling even further out on the world's continental shelves, and below 650-foot depths. This leaves them damaging our planet’s largest and most diverse ecosystem and catching a lot of ‘unwanted fish’, such as sharks and dolphins, as they go. Some countries have in recent years started banning this type of fishing, but the problem continues. Irritatingly, we hear about the collapse in fishing stocks and then foolishly we overfish elsewhere. By refusing to learn from our own mistakes, we are posing a real threat to the biodiversity of our oceans. We need to rethink the way the fishing industry is managed.
If I haven’t lost you already, this is where I am likely to: Ecosystem-Based Fishery Management, or EBFM for short! In brief, this is a concept which involves fishery managers being sensible and protecting not just one species of fish at a time, but the entire eco-system surrounding the fish. Look after the fishies' homes, and there will be fishies to live in them. Simples.
One fairly humorous Green Peace campaign has some short clips that are well worth watching about the potential of ‘Marine Reserves’, which are protected areas of ocean, like underwater national parks. The main point Green Peace makes is if we want to eat fish tomorrow, we need marine reserves today.
I appreciate this week’s issue is a big one, and the solution is no mean feat. We either convince the nation’s fish lovers (me) to give up their weekly fish supper; convince the world’s governing bodies to enforce more stringent measures on fishing; or we go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for this all to blow over, suffering the consequences later.
I admit, this is an unbelievably dry topic. But it’s important. It would be incredible if, just once, we could say we managed to turn the situation around before it reached crisis point. I am truly open to suggestions here on how to get the job done, because I really don’t fancy life as a vegetarian.