Now is the time to build a brighter future for our seas

Harry Bellew

Monday 13 March 2017

• The number of overfished stocks in the northeast Atlantic has dropped by a quarter in the last 10 years, but the latest data show close to half of all assessed stocks are still being overfished.
• Eight conservation organisations are today calling on governments to develop new fisheries law that puts sustainability at the heart of fisheries management enabling fish stocks to continue recovering.
• The organisations have published 10 principles for governments to follow to help build a brighter future for our seas, which include effective legislation that goes beyond current EU commitments, and the setting of sustainable fishing levels.

Conservationists are today calling on the UK and developed governments to work together as we prepare to leave the European Union to develop new fisheries law that will allow fish stocks to recover while putting our traditional fishing industries and coastal communities on a sustainable footing.

As an island nation our coastal communities and connection to the sea hold a special place in our cultural identity. Our seas are also home to or visited by an amazing variety of wildlife such as puffins, Minke whale, lesser sandeel and basking shark.

Over the last 10 years progress has been made on reducing overfishing in the northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters. In this period the number of assessed stocks being overfished dropped by over a quarter. However, the latest official information confirms that 47% of assessed stocks are still being overfished, which doesn't just impact on the profitability of our fisheries but also the food supplies and habitats that support other marine life.

As control of waters around the UK are repatriated, conservationists are calling on the governments to ensure our precious marine life and important fishing industries both have a long-term future.

As a leading voice in the reform of the EU's fisheries policy, the UK has helped shape policies to reverse the damage done by overfishing, and new domestic fishing legislation should continue this positive work. In line with the governments' ambition to become world leaders in sustainable fisheries management, future policy should be science-based, following scientific advice when setting fishing limits to ensure fish stocks remain sustainable into the future.

This would also set high standards for foreign fishing vessels seeking access to UK waters and guide us as we look to negotiate the multiple new agreements that will be required to allow our fishing fleets continued access to waters they have previously fished under European Union arrangements.


The principles unveiled by ClientEarth, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Society, New Economics Foundation, The Pew Trusts, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and WWF-UK set out how governments can build a brighter future for our seas. They highlight the need for:

• Effective legislation that meets the governments' ambition to be world leaders in sustainable fisheries management
• Good governance that includes a clear and transparent process of stakeholder engagement and decision making.
• Sustainable fishing levels and accountability - legal requirement to fish below a level that allows fish stocks to fully recover, and to be fully accountable for all fish caught

Catherine Weller, Head of Biodiversity Programme, ClientEarth, said: "Brexit must not mean lower environmental protection for marine life. Overfishing, catches of vulnerable species and damage to marine habitats are some of the major issues facing the seas around the UK. To create a sustainable future for the UK's seas and the communities which depend on them, strong environmental protection must be built into the new fishing laws."
Will McCallum, Head of Oceans Campaigns, Greenpeace UK, said: "There has never been better time to reimagine the future of the UK's marine environment than over the next two years. Politicians need to put the health of our oceans and the interests of coastal communities at the forefront of their policy making, making sure that fishing is done sustainably and has the interests of the local community at heart."
Sandy Luk, Chief Executive, Marine Conservation Society, said: "Thriving coastal communities and a profitable fishing industry rely on a healthy marine environment. Knowing how we are impacting our environment through our fishing activities allows us to ensure that we are fishing in the most sustainable, low impact way. Our seas have the potential to be profitable, protected and well managed for future generations"

Aniol Esteban, Programme Director, New Economics Foundation, said: Healthy seas can help bring economic activity back to communities around the UK coast. Brexit must not mean the plunder of the seas but ensure that fish stocks recover, so that sustainable fishers in ports nationwide can earn a living for generations to come.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: "Our seas are home to an amazing variety of wildlife and some of the most incredible wildlife spectacles from pods of dolphins off the coast of Aberdeen to the hundreds of thousands of seabirds that make their home at Bempton Cliffs. We want to work with Governments and stakeholders to develop new laws to better manage our seas to protect our marine life, allow fish stocks to recover and support our traditional fishing industries."

Andrew Clayton, Project Director, The Pew Trusts, said: "As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is imperative that UK governments put sustainability at the heart of their plans for fisheries management. This will allow UK to fulfil its requirements under international law, enable effective management of shared stocks and the marine ecosystem, and help to deliver resilient, productive fisheries into the future."

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas, The Wildlife Trusts, said: "UK marine wildlife and UK fisheries alike depend upon healthy seas and healthy ecosystems. As well as ensuring that exploitation of fish populations is sustainable we must also reduce the pressure that fishing places on the seabed, especially in those areas set aside to protect marine habitats and species. Putting marine ecosystems at the heart of decision making is not only good for our wonderful marine wildlife, but will help to ensure a future for those who rely on the resources that our marine ecosystems provide."

Dr Lyndsey Dodds, Head of Marine Policy, WWF-UK, said: "Healthy seas and plentiful fish stocks lie at the heart of a sustainable and resilient fishing industry and dependent coastal communities. Ensuring the use of the right fishing gear, fishing at levels that result in sustainable stocks and identifying ways to monitor what is happening at sea are key in order to understand the impacts of fishing and provide accountability for all fish caught. Let's make UK seafood synonymous with sustainable seafood"

For more information visit www.wwf.org.uk/green-alliance

1. In 2007 over 72% of assessed stocks were overfished whereas in 2014 approximately 47% of assessed stocks were overfished. This information is drawn from a report published by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) which reflects the findings of their report: Monitoring the performance of the Common Fisheries Policy (STECF-16-05) - CORRIGENDUM to (STECF-16-03).

2. The other principles that Governments must follow to secure a brighter future for our seas are:
• Specific protections - the creation and effective management of an Ecologically Coherent Network of Marine Protected Areas.
• Sound science - Fishing limits that adhere to the best available science from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and other scientific organisations.
• End discards - delivery of an effective discard ban which includes full documentation and control of total catches.
• Shared management - mechanisms to work with neighbouring countries to achieve shared objectives for managing shared fish stocks.
• Effective monitoring and enforcement - measures to ensure compliance and confidence in the achievement of domestic and international objectives on sustainable fisheries.
• Technical measures - improvements in technical measures, for example to protect vulnerable species and habitats.
• Sufficient resources - investment to underpin monitoring and enforcement

3. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.
4. WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption
5. The Wildlife Trusts (TWT) There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK. All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone. We have more than 800,000 members including 150,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch. Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas. We manage around 2,300 nature reserves and every year we advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife. We also run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife. Every year we work with thousands of schools and our nature reserves and visitor centres receive millions of visitors. Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.
6. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK charity dedicated to protecting our seas, shores and wildlife. MCS campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, and protection of marine life. Through education, community involvement and collaboration, MCS raises awareness of the many threats that face our seas and promotes individual, industry and government action to protect the marine environment. MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the annual Good Beach Guide, the Good Fish Guide on sustainable seafood, as well as involving thousands of volunteers in projects and surveys such as MCS Beachwatch.
7. Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. To maintain its independence, Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments or corporations but relies on contributions from individual supporters and foundation grants. We exist to expose environmental criminals, and to challenge government and corporations when they fail to live up to their mandate to safeguard our environment and our future.
8. The New Economics Foundation is the UK's only people-powered think tank. We work to build a new economy where people really take control.
9. ClientEarth is a public interest European environmental law organisation founded in 2007, with offices in London, Brussels and Warsaw. We aim to create practical solutions to key environmental challenges by supporting and promoting the development, implementation and enforcement of effective environmental law and policy.
10. The Pew Trusts is a UK establishment of The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Pew Charitable Trusts is an independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, founded in 1948. Pew's mission is to serve the public interest by improving public policy, informing the public and invigorating civic life.

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

Tagged with: Country: England Country: UK Topic: Conservation Topic: Marine and water Topic: Site conservation Topic: Species conservation