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

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia  

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Oliver Poole
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices