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Monday 19 May 2014

Where are the fishermen/fishers/fisherfolk in all this?

With the working title, "Discard ban can benefit fish and fishers, but sustainability must come first" here are the opening lines of an article written by Bryce Stewart - and you wonder why fishermen get a tad upset when they read this kind of thing!

"It was hailed as a great victory for conservation, common sense and people power. Last year the European Commission finally voted to phase out the shameful practice of discarding hundreds of thousands of tonnes of perfectly good fish, either by-catch or target species caught over the allowable quota, as permitted by the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Although hundreds of scientists, NGOs, politicians and legislators worked behind the scenes to make this happen, the issue really hit the public consciousness through the work of the mop-haired part-time celebrity chef/eco-warrior, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall."
Every time we read an article reporting on discards the authors somehow manage to forget that behind all of this are the guys who behind the scenes actually go out to sea to feed the nation and provide an income for them and their families - many of whom have given their time, money, sweat and tears to make changes to the way they fish (metal grids/square mesh panels etc) behind the scenes  to make this all possible. 

Frustratingly, authors of articles like this continue to project a negative image of irresponsible fishermen to the public and further reinforce the damage done by HFW's series was in choosing to ignore the vital role fishermen have played in turning round fish stocks in areas like the North Sea and beyond over the last 10 years. The huge fleet of vessels working in the North Sea is no more - though a continuing source of angst amongst UK fishermen is that in many instances vessels flying other flags fish alongside and catch the very fish that the present system forces them to discard!

However, it was cheering to see another article from the The Conversation a few weeks ago acknowledge the weight of measures taken by the industry:

Livelihoods on the line:
It is certainly true that the UK industry has worked hard for many years to try and ensure that cod stocks recover. Many of the measures adopted have involved sacrifices from the industry, including the decommissioning of vessels, introduction of fishing gear modifications to reduce the by-catch of small cod and actions to avoid areas where young cod congregate. 
The UK fishing industry needs a top PR company like never before - unfortunately it does not have the unanimity to have deep pockets or benefit from the huge donations made by charities such as the Oak Foundation or PEW to make shows like the #FishFight - more's the pity.