Now we are still a United Kingdom, thankfully!, I can happily say that that conglomerate of countries is surrounded by some of the most productive seas on the planet.
Little wonder that seafood has been part of these islanders’ diet since prehistoric times ... there are some very large shell middens around our shores, showing how important the sea was to the hunter-gatherers of the day.
Commercial fishing dates back a thousand years, when small day boats worked close to the coast … employing methods used since time immemorial … nets, spears, hook-and-line, and traps.
As the population grew and settled further away from the shores … the fishermen in the latter Middle Ages (9thC – 15thC AD) began to experiment with mobile fishing gear, rowing trawl nets and dredges behind sailing boats.
For centuries these methods served their purpose … there were plenty of fish, which could easily meet demand.
|Railway line along the Devon coast|
The Industrial Revolution changed all that … the population grew, railways forged their way across our lands and continents … demand for food and then profits surged …
With recent developments we (humans) can fish til we drip – 24 hours a day, further afield, reaching deeper and deploying bigger, more robust fishing gear, searching by ‘sat nav’ … almost pulling the plug on the oceans …
Those shoals of fish in earlier times were attended by armadas of dolphins, porpoises, whales, tuna, sharks and seabirds guiding the fishermen to their quarry …
The trawls and dredges have transformed much of the UK seabed from areas crusted with sponges, seaweed, sea-fans, anemones, corals and sea-nettles, to open expanses of sand, gravel and mud.
|Grilled Dab with lemon butter|
sauce on fresh wilted baby spinach
Plaice, dabs and flounder flourish on these open habitats, while previous occupants which need complex habitats with plenty of shelter, like cod, halibut and conger eels have been ousted.
The transformation of the ocean that is underway, from rich and complex to simple and denuded, is a global phenomenon. Economic catastrophe could so easily occur through this oversimplification … leaving our oceans less able to function effectively in the face of climate change and escalating human pressures.
|Lightly cooked Halibut steak|
We have lost many of our large, slow maturing species of fish … like skate and halibut … caught before they were fully mature … while dabs, gurnards and whiting are abundant, live fast and die young.
Marine conservation areas are being preserved … and being networked … so vulnerable fish can find refuge, habitats can recover and breeding fish can thrive undisturbed.
|Lundy Island - Britain's first Marine Conservation Area|
Some frightening facts:
- 70% of the earth’s surface is ocean
- 80% of all life on earth lives in the ocean
- 2.8% of the ocean is currently protected
- 75% of the Mediterranean is overfished
- 39% of the north east Atlantic is overfished
Charles Clover, the son of a farmer and founding member of the Soil Association, has always been interested in pesticides, the destruction of greenbelt spaces … but then fish stocks took over …
… he had accidentally walked into a lecture in Dutch! on beam trawling in the North Sea … to find that the lecturer Han Lindeboom described beam trawling as the equivalent to ploughing a field seven times a year … as a farmer’s son he knew that would be catastrophic to anything that wanted to grow and live there.
As an environmental journalist and a fisherman, he wrote a book … describing that overfishing was contributing to one of the greatest crises of our time … eventually Ebury press took a chance and agreed to publish it (7 years later).
|The film from the book|
The End of the Line was published in 2004 – it became a huge success, turned into a film in 2009 … advocating that fishermen should catch the right numbers and catch them intelligently … it’s just not saving the fish, but saving the livelihoods of fishermen. No fish mean no jobs.
People now care if their seafood is sustainably sourced … we are starting to make more informed decisions, while brands have made sustainability a key part in their brand marketing.
Fishermen across the UK have turned a corner in the last ten years by becoming engaged in trying to conserve fish …
Charles Clover says he’s learnt that one of the best ways to achieve goals is for conservationists and fishermen to work together.
|The Foundation's Review (see below)|
He has helped establish the Blue Marine Foundation in 2010 – a charity – whose vision is to have “A world in which marine resources are valued, carefully managed and used sustainably.”
As the website states: Overfishing costs 50$ billion a year in lost income worldwide ….
Networking is what it’s all about … KENZO, the Paris fashion house, approached the Foundation to partner with Blue … and dedicated its Spring/Summer 2014 collection “BLUE” …
As the models strutted down the catwalk this autumn dressed in sweatshirts emblazoned mysteriously “NO FISH, NO NOTHING” … the tweeters were saying Blue's ruling the catwalk ...
The creative directors had grown up around the Ocean so were passionate about Marine Conservation and particularly the Foundation’s active do approach.
Their 2013 pdf Review gives you more information – about where they’re working around the globe and with more specifics …
|Ocean trawling - denuding the seas|
The transformation of the ocean that is underway, from rich and complex to simple and denuded, is a global phenomenon.
Economic catastrophe could so easily occur through this oversimplification … leaving our oceans less able to function effectively in the face of climate change and escalating human pressures.
Sustainability for all flora and fauna – each species contributes something to its surrounds, or other species … we all depend on nature in some way – and if we mess, as we are doing, with our seas as well as our earth – we are in for a dire time.
This is why it is so vital that we rebuild life in the sea and establish some areas off limits to all fishing.
|The Ocean touches nearly every aspect of our|
lives - making it essential to the economic, social
and economic well-being of everyone, everywhere
c/o Ocean Publications
We need to understand the vital need to balance conservation with human development – an essential to our survival.
Blue Marine Foundation website – and see their 2013 Review …
Charles Clover’s “The End of the Line” book (check out the blurb) and film …
Here’s a trailer for the film …
Enjoy life ... but think – where did it come from … am I wasting resources … can I source nearer to home … the butterfly effect applies here … each tiny flutter and change will help our grandchildren and their future …
Some new information that's come to light from Bish Denham's blog " Random Thoughts" on plastic in the ocean - here's the link .. and the TED talk by Boyan Slat, a Dutch youngster, is amazing - he's pursued his dream through sheer determination, giving up his studies and his social life, crowd sourced ... and is engineering to clean the oceans of plastic ... very well worth watching the 17 minute video.
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