Editorial: Turning the oceans green

The inadequate labelling of fish is more important than the scandal over horsemeat

Share
Related Topics

It is hard to be an environmentally conscious fish eater, as we report today. DNA tests carried out by researchers at the University of Salford reveal that skate and ray wings often come from the more vulnerable species. Stefano Marini, who carried out the research, says that rules, which already apply to cod, haddock, salmon and trout, should be extended so that skate and similar rays should be identified by species name at the point of sale. This would allow consumers to avoid "near-threatened" species such as blonde ray, thornback, small-eyed and shagreen.

The encouraging news is that the study failed to find skate from any prohibited species, in contrast with a study earlier this year that found 7 per cent of fish sold in Britain as cod and haddock was actually from cheaper species.

In some ways, the mislabelling and inadequate labelling of fish is more important than the scandal over horsemeat sold as beef. If consumers are ignorant of what fish they eat, the environmental consequences may be serious. After climate change, the declining biodiversity of the oceans is perhaps the greatest environmental challenge. As The Independent on Sunday reported last month, the Government is dragging its feet on designating Marine Conservation Zones around Britain. Richard Benyon, the Fisheries minister, has approved only 31 of the 127 sites recommended for protection, and, once again, the lack of urgency mocks David Cameron's ambition to lead the "greenest government ever".

This is mostly, however, a challenge for governments working together. That is why it is encouraging that the European Union has for the first time imposed sanctions in a dispute about overfishing – against the Faroe Islands, which, although part of Denmark, are not part of the EU. We should not allow sentimentality about small island countries to obstruct green objectives, any more than we should seek to defend British fishing jobs for their own sake.

There is so much more that needs to be done, however, at the EU and global levels. Here, we find ourselves applauding David Miliband, the former UK foreign secretary who is now head of the Global Ocean Commission.

This is a commendable attempt to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and political clout. As foreign secretary, Miliband created the world's largest "no-take" ocean reserve in the Chagos archipelago in the British Indian Ocean Territory. In a recent speech he said: "I was able to find an outlet for my passion for the environment through the unexpected residual powers of the British Empire."

Mr Miliband identified 2014 as "a year of key decisions for the global ocean". It is the year in which UN members have to decide whether to begin negotiations for a new international agreement on the conservation of marine living resources. He said: "Either there will be a moment of reckoning and decision, or this vital agenda will get lost, as the worlds of ocean science and international politics drift further apart."

His is an organisation engaged in an important task of consciousness-raising and political lobbying that deserves the enthusiastic support of the British people and their government.

As a token of their sincerity, ministers should show strong leadership and designate Marine Conservation Zones without delay – and tighten up the rules on fish labelling. Then consumers too can play their part in moving the world towards sustainable fishing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Manufacturing Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...

Recruitment Genius: Conveyancing Fee Earner / Technical Support

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Fee Earner/Techn...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This law firm is seeking a happy, helpful and ...

The Jenrick Group: Production Supervisor

£26000 - £29000 per annum + Holidays & Pension: The Jenrick Group: Production ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'