Will there be plenty more fish in the sea?

Recent news has highlighted that overfishing in European waters is costing the EU £2.7 billion per year. In response to this, the European commission has proposed major changes to the Common Fisheries Policy which are intended to be in place by January 2013. One of the main aspects of this is that European stocks of fish are being left depleted, so a reduction in the amount of fishing allowed to occur would successfully help the biosphere to recover itself. The New Economics Foundation (NEF) claims that fishing would be more successful in the future if there is a reduction in the amount of fishing carried out at present, suggesting  a ‘for the greater good’ outlook.

This brings into context the infamous debate regarding the rights of the environment vs the rights of the people living within it, who have to utilise the environment in order to make a living.

It is easy to appreciate the concerns of the government regarding the depletion of natural resources, which is relevant in a number of contemporary contexts not just in terms of fishing and food revenues. Joe Borg’s article (2009) briefly discusses the contention that European fisheries are massively overfished, which would “do little for the future sustainability of the sector”. With the ever increasing spotlight on global population increases and decreasing natural resources, a positive attitude, he claims, towards preserving a substantial amount of these natural resources is necessary and needs to be paramount in this area of contemporary government legislation. However, the implementation of such legislations and policies has a significant effect on communities who are dependent on such revenues and the repercussions of this can be seen on a day-to-day basis.

In light of this recent issue, concerns around environmental justice are being contested as different opinions are coming increasingly into conflict. An Island Parish (January 2012) is a recent television documentary which is often regarded as a modern insight into the repercussions of new policies on an actual fishing community in the Island of Barra, off the coast of Scotland. It highlighted a conflict over the future of the fishing industry in this village as a rare coral has been discovered, which along with the pressure to meet EU targets, the Scottish government had discussions about creating a conservation area with would incorporate a ban on fishing.       The local residents had concerns about this policy being applied as it would have impacts up many aspects of their daily lives. A BBC News article discussed this general issue, and said that Charlotte Cawthorne, ISU marine programme manager recognises that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, but, “three things were essential: scientific understanding of the ecosystem, funding for the transition, and sound management.” The residents of the Island of Barra, especially the fishermen, contest this as they argue that they know the best way to look after their environment sustainably as they have fished there for years. Aside from that, they claim that they don’t actually need to damage the rare coral by fishing there anyway.

This only touches the tip of a large and ever popular debate regarding environmental justice in terms of sustainability vs human needs, but can highlight how these different opinions have and will likely continue to come into conflict. Whilst these EU policies may make way for plenty more fish in their seas, communities who are dependent upon fishing revenues may feel as though they are being drowned out…

Borg, J (2009). Why European Fisheries Need Fixing – And Why We Need To Get It Right. Environmental Policy and Law, 39/6. 308.

Harvey, F (2012) Healthy European fish stocks would be worth £2.7bn a year – report. Available:http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/10/healthy-european-fish-stocks. Last accessed 18th February 2012.

Kinver, M (2012) Overfishing ‘costs EU £2.7bn each year’. Available:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16979976. Last accessed 18th February 2012.


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