Thursday 19th November, at 7pm GMT, will see the next in our series of environmental events- organised and curated by us at Clear Public Space in conjunction with the renowned Frontline Club #environmentalfrontline.
Last month, we streamed our first event of the series, the panel investigated: By Burning Waste, Are We Burning Our Future? The panellists were invited to discuss the issue of waste incineration and ‘Energy from Waste’ (EfW). The event saw brilliant arguments presented by the EU Commission’s Professor Helmut Maurer, industry-voice Jacob Hayler and environmental campaigner Georgia Elliott-Smith. You can watch a short synopsis video of the debate here.
Our next event is entitled “A Sea of Scandals” and the panellists will be discussing the contentious debate surrounding practices of overfishing, marine protected areas, and the future of sustainable fishing post-Brexit. Jonathan Leake, former Environmental Editor at The Times, will be moderating the event again and the panel includes voices from every corner of the debate.
A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that supertrawlers (freezer trawlers more than 100m in length) spent 2,963 hours fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in 2019, the equivalent of 123 days. An incredible 40% of England’s seas are designated as MPAs. The Southern North Sea MPA, which was created to safeguard porpoises, was one of the most heavily fished in by supertrawlers in 2019 and more than 1,000 porpoises died in fishing nets around the UK in 2019. However, all the supertrawler fishing was legal.
However, there is mixed messaging regarding MPAs, with some scholars arguing they are little more than “paper parks” - “lines on the map that fail to achieve desired conservation outcomes.” Furthermore, endangered and critically endangered fish species such as sharks and rays, a study shows, are actually five times more abundant outside the MPAs. The fishing industry and scientists alike have also expressed concern over what marine protected areas mean to people who depend on fisheries for their living. Therefore the future of MPAs, and the fishing industry itself, is uncertain.
The issue of overfishing has been a mainstay of environmental organisations for many years. According to Greenpeace, over 90% of predatory species like cod and tuna have already been caught and 70% of fisheries are overfished. The New Economics Foundation also reported that between 1987 and 2011, the UK Government set catch limits 33% higher than the scientifically recommended average. NEF also stated that catch limits for 31 of 69 stocks were set above recommended limits in 2014, which the group said is a sign that things are not getting better.
Yet some say that the tide has already turned (mind the pun). In the North-East Atlantic, average biomass was 35% higher than in 2003, with the number of fishing vessels decreasing by 6%, engine power by 14% and tonnage by 24%. In 2017, almost 80% of the global landings came from sustainable stocks and in 2018 the levels of fish populations were 50% higher than at the start of the decade. So has overfishing been overhyped?
Brexit brings another level of nuance to the debate. Over 50% of the UK’s Marine Protected Areas were established by EU laws such as the EU Habitats Directive and the EU Birds Directive. Furthermore, many of the sustainable fishing safeguards that UK fisheries operate under are EU policies. Yet, many argue that Brexit will bring new chances to develop policy focused on sustainable fishing and preserving the livelihoods of British fishing communities.
The debate is clearly complex which is why we are bringing together leading voices and experts in the industry to debate these issues and more.
Charles Clover - Journalist and author. Charles writes a weekly column about environmental matters in the Sunday Times and is the former Environmental Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Charles is the executive director of the Blue Marine Foundation and author of The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat.
Barrie Deas – Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations. He is the Chair of the North Sea Advisory Council’s Demersal Working Group and sits on the Executive Committee of the North West Waters Advisory Council. Until recently, he was one of the vice presidents of the European trade association, Europeche.
Elspeth Macdonald- Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation and former deputy Chief Executive of Food Standards Scotland. Elspeth previously worked in the Scottish Government’s Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen.
Richard Benyon- Former British Conservative Party MP and Fisheries Minister. He implemented the Marine and Coastal Access Act including the designations of Marine Conservation Zones.
We will also hear from the Ullapool Sea Savers, a group of passionate, articulate, well-informed and dedicated young people from Ullapool, Scotland. They were featured on Prince William’s A Planet for Us All for their work protecting local marine environments.
So join us on the Thursday 19th of November for what promises to be a lively and informative debate.