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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Fishy Royal Mail stamps go on sale

How what must have seemed like a good idea a year or so back when these stamps were commissioned is likely to incense many fishermen up and down the coastline of the UK - the Royal Mail will not win many fishermen fans for this set of stamps!

Here are some interesting statistics and comments posted along with the release these new fishy stamp sets from the Royal Mail. The choice of Wolf fish is odd given that 99% of fishermen have never even seen one in the flesh - included in the 'threatened' category no doubt to highlight the plight of deep-water species to which it belongs and even more bizarre is to include a fish landed once in a blue moon - the sturgeon - known much more for its eggs in the form of caviar rather than any fillet or cutlet dish likely to grace the plate of a diner in this country! It's also a shame that fish like mackerel and hake were not included - especially as they are both visually way more appealing than the dreary dab or common conger!

The Royal Mail has announced its first ever stamp set to champion an environmental issue with the launch of a series focused on sustainable fishing in British waters.

The 10-stamp set, launched to mark World Environment Day, highlights the beauty of marine fish as well as providing guidance and encouragement to consumers on how to conserve UK fisheries.
Many familiar fish are severely threatened due to a variety of factors including overfishing – the new stamp issue raises awareness of the threat and also provides a sustainable alternative.

Five of the species illustrated are fish that are threatened in UK waters: Common Skate, Spiny Dogfish (sometimes called Rock Salmon), Wolffish, Sturgeon and Conger Eel, 

while five are species from sustainable populations which provide viable alternatives for fisheries and consumers: Herring, Red Gurnard, Dab, Pouting and Cornish Sardine

Five of the species illustrated are fish that are threatened in UK waters: Common Skate, Spiny Dogfish (sometimes called Rock Salmon), Wolffish, Sturgeon and Conger Eel, 
The plight of fisheries has caused increasing public concern in recent years, with some organisations offering advice to consumers on which seafood to purchase and supermarket chains actively informing their customers about making informed choices. There have also been a number of TV programmes highlighting the issue.

Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation, University of York, who acted as consultant for Royal Mail on the stamp issue said: "Marine protected areas that are off limits to fishing could recover endangered species like those on the stamps, as well as providing a boost to the fishing industry through recovered stocks.

“Only one thousandth of 1% of UK seas are fully protected from fishing at present. To bring back endangered fish species, we need a huge increase in the coverage of such protected areas."

Andrew Hammond, Royal Mail spokesperson, added; “With the majority of the world’s fish stocks currently fully-exploited or over-exploited this is a key issue of concern. We hope this stamp issue goes some way to helping people make informed choices about sustainability and contribute to the discussion about the conservation of UK fish stocks.”

Alongside the new stamps, Royal Mail released the findings commissioned research to understand the attitudes to and gauge the knowledge of sustainable fishing amongst the British public.

The research found that while the term ‘sustainable fishing’ is widespread, there is generally a lack of knowledge about it. While 99% of people surveyed had heard of the term ‘sustainable fishing’, 53% had heard of the phrase but knew nothing or did not know very much. 46% of people asked described themselves as knowing a fair amount or a great deal about the issue.

The research also revealed a disappointing level of engagement amongst younger people and environmental issues, with more than a third of 16-24 year olds (37%) not aware that some fish are threatened in UK seas, much higher than the 16% of 55-65 year olds.

Older people tend to be more concerned about the impact of fishing on the environment with 59% of those aged 55-65 concerned or very concerned against a figure of 44% of people aged between 16-24.

In total, 49% of people polled said they were not concerned at all or a little concerned at the environmental impact of fishing, while 51% of described themselves as being concerned or very concerned.

Fresh fish is part of the diet for 88% of Britons. However, based on consumption of fresh fish, only 7% of men and women eat as much fish as the Food Standards Agency recommends, i.e. two portions per week. Fresh fish is eaten two to three times a month only a quarter of people 26%

31% of those asked said their knowledge of sustainability issues caused them to change the species of fish they buy/order while 14% said it led them to reduce the quantity of fish they bought/ordered.

66% of those asked said they would buy/order more fish if they were assured that the fish was fished or farmed in a sustainable way. However, 84% reported that there was no information available about the level of sustainability of the species when buying or ordering fish.

As well as the fish featured in the stamp issue, some well-known fish species were included in the list when asking respondents if they were aware of the sustainability status of the species in British waters; these were Cod, Haddock, Plaice, Sea Bass, Angel Shark, Mackerel. On average, 82% of people said that they didn’t know the status or had never heard of the six threatened species (Common Skate, Spiny Dogfish, Wolffish, Sturgeon, Conger Eel, and Angel Shark). The figure was 81% for the five species on the stamps.

There is also low knowledge even of supposedly well-known species. On average, 54% of people said that they didn’t know the status or had never heard of the six well known species (Cod, Haddock, Plaice, Herring, Sea Bass and Mackerel). Knowledge of sustainable alternative species (Cornish Sardine; Herring; Red Gurnard; Dab and Pouting) was as low as for the threatened species, with 81% saying they didn’t know the status or had never heard of the fish.

However, the message about UK cod stocks seems to have got through. 82% of those who said they knew its status were correct.