Tuesday, December 07, 2004

More fishing

After being flagged up yesterday, the report from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, entitled "Turning The Tide: Addressing The Impact Of Fisheries On The Marine Environment", made lead item on the BBC Radio 4 one o’clock news and featured prominently on the Today programme this morning.

Interviewed on the Today programme was the chairman of the Commission, Sir Tom Blundell, followed by the egregious Ben "Rear Admiral" Bradshaw, our fisheries minister.

What grated, as you might expect, was the way the BBC introduced the subject, with the opening announcement, "British fisheries policies are failing…"; yet another example of the "elephant in the room". WE do not have a British fisheries policy, you stupid, ignorant, blind people. We have a common fisheries policy, run by the EU.

But then, could really could not expect the BBC to run with an announcement that "the EU’s fishing policies are failing…". That would never do.

However, despite its prominence in the media, the actual report remains elusive, the Commission’s website still flagging up a report from August 2004 as its latest production. Apart from yesterday’s story by the Telegraph all we have to rely on is agency copy and a report from The Independent, which is clearly based on agency sources.

From that, however, we have learnt enough to be able to assert that the report is a classic example of why environmentalists should never be allowed anywhere near public policy.

The Commission's main recommendation is that the sea "should be treated in the same way as endangered areas on land", with Blundell arguing that "We need to take positive steps to allow the environment to recover. Marine reserves should be created to protect 30 percent of the UK's seas from fishing."

The man is a fool and his committee is a bunch of ignorant idiots. Rightly, "industry leaders" have accused the Commission of having "tunnel vision" and talking "codswallop".

The key point, of course – which does not exactly take rocket science to figure out – is that we have mixed fisheries, in which some but not all species are threatened. For instance, in the North Sea, Cod stocks are threatened – although this may be more the result of climate change than "over-fishing" – but, as has been pointed out on numerous occasions, Haddock stocks are at a thirty-year high.

Now, dear reader, it has also been pointed out that Haddock compete with Cod for the same food sources. Moreover, when you have a surge in any fish population, as they mature, there is a danger that they outstrip the available food supply. There is evidence of this actually happening in the North Sea, with under-size mature Haddock being caught, showing signs of malnutrition.

And what happens then? The Haddock predate on the Cod fry, putting those stocks further at risk. To keep the stock balanced, and to give the Cod the best chance of recovery, the last thing you do is stop fishing. The very last thing in this world you want is closed areas.

Instead, fishermen should be sent into the areas to fish hard for Haddock, using selective gear which can surgically extract the Haddock without touching the Cod, thus thinning out the Haddock in much the same way that you thin out seedlings from an over-crowded bed.

This much fishery scientists know, and it is this strategy that has enabled the Faeroes to "square the circle", increasing the fishing effort and thus the catches while ending up with an increased biomass.

But this is the very strategy that the EU commission has prevented British fishermen adopting, and now this fool Blundell wants to make things even worse. Not surprisingly, the BBC treated him with reverence. I don't know which is worse – the fool or its mouthpiece.

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