Sea fishing has sparked a large amount of controversy and heated debate since the inception of the European Union Common Fisheries Policy in 1957. At the time, and on a number of occasions since, fishermen across the globe have condemned the policy, claiming it jeopardises their livelihoods. The counter argument is that humans must fish responsibly as to maintain the fish stocks for generations to come. They are already pushed to their limit, with 85% of the world’s fisheries being fully exploited, over exploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. The debate was once again brought to the forefront of public debate when the fire was stoked recently by research and reports that the stocks of Blue-Fin Tuna were being decimated by illegal levels of fishing. Nevertheless, this public awareness, and outrage could force some developments in technology, and industry standards to revolutionise fishing, and preserve fish stocks for the future.
The latest feel-good factor in the supermarket comes from making sure that you pick up tinned tuna marked with the words “Caught using a Pole and Line.” What does this actually mean though? Greenpeace set out on their website, that using a pole and line shows consideration for other species in the water, and means that dolphins, sharks, rays and other fish are not accidentally killed, or wasted during the process of fishing. The fact that this has now become something people care about is symbolic of the importance that fishing ethics and the Common Fisheries Policy means to the general public, and furthermore, this public interest and pressure seems as if it might be pushing through solutions.
The European Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki has today revealed a number of ways in which she believes stocks can be preserved, and waste reduced. The first step is to introduce ‘smart’ nets, and the second part of Damanaki’s plan comes through close surveillance of fishermen through camera installation, as to stop them breaking the law by over fishing their quota. These nets will be designed to discard fish that are caught up in the net accidentally, and also stop the net from catching any more fish once the quota has been reached. A video uploaded by the BBC illustrates how such a process would work, but some of the technology used may prove to be an expensive investment for fishermen, who are already disgruntled at how much ethical fishing is already costing them. Ms. Damanaki’s resolution is to offer subsidised costs for smaller fishing boats, but Mike Montgomerie of Seafish believes that eventually fishermen will have to embrace change at the hands of public pressure:
“In the past few years I have noticed a real change among crews. They are hearing that the public won’t put up with wasteful fishing any more, and a lot of them are embracing change.”
Damanaki built on Montgomerie’s point saying: “The most important thing is how we are going to implement selective gear so we can reduce unwanted catches. This is the most important element of the whole policy.”
Through further development of net technology, there is no doubt that less fish will be wasted at the hands of over fishing the oceans, and research by the EU has already shown surveillance can drastically reduce the amount of fish wasted. The planned installation of cameras will also go a long way to reducing the amount of illegal fishing, in turn preserving fish reserves for the future. It is important to realise that a lot of the positive movement in this area has come through raising public awareness, and then in turn the public making their voices heard, even if this is through buying a different tin of tuna. It should serve as a reminder that people do still have the power to change things.