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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
New SNP MP Mhairi Black distinguished herself in Westminster straight away when she made herself a chip butty in the canteen  

The SNP adventure arrives in Westminister - but how long before these new MPs go native?

Katy Guest
The Public Accounts Committee found widespread concern among civil servants that they would be victimised if they spoke out about wrongdoing  

Nikileaks explained: The sad thing about the Nicola Sturgeon saga is that it makes leaks less likely

Jane Merrick
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?