Failure to Protect

BBC Environment & Politics —
The European Commission has proposed closing parts of the North and
Irish Seas and off western Scotland to save the seriously depleted
stocks of cod. The Fisheries Minister, Ben Bradshaw, says he will
oppose the plans when all EU fisheries ministers meet on Tuesday. But
John Gummer, who did the job from 1989 to 1993, says Mr Bradshaw has
been misled and should support the closures. This year’s EU Fisheries
Council, starting in Brussels on 21 December, will decide how much
fishing should be allowed in 2005. On 16 December, Mr Bradshaw told BBC
News there were “glimmers of a cod recovery”: his officials say the
decommissioning of UK boats and the restrictions on the days they can
spend at sea have helped the improvement in stocks.  Mr Bradshaw
said: “The cod recovery plan we introduced has been in place for just
two years; it’s entailed considerable pain. “There are now signs of
recovery, and so I think this is not the year for introducing closed
areas. As they’re currently proposed, we can’t support them.” Mr Gummer
is now a backbench Conservative MP, and chairs the board of the Marine
Stewardship Council.  He told the BBC News website: “I think the
government is being misled again. It should have supported the tough
European line. “Whenever there’s an effective suggestion for improving
the situation, there’s a huge tendency for a pull-back which comes from
the fishing industry. The problem with the EU’s common fisheries policy
is not that it’s common – it has to be that – but that the ministers
represent the fishermen, not the fish. And the fishermen whose
interests they’re talking about are today’s, not tomorrow’s. All over
the world we’ve underestimated the speed at which fish stocks have
become depleted, and that’s the trap Mr Bradshaw has fallen into.” (12/20/04)