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: Sales Executive - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

MBDA UK Ltd: Electronic Sub-System Design Verification engineer

Flexible working, annual bonus, pension & more.: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the oppor...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Architect

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? MBDA has e...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Design Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in April. The classical musical festival is one of the BBC’s most cherished institutions  

The Proms must be dragged into the 21st century

David Lister
Lesley Roberts's benefits were stopped after she was erroneously declared fit for work by an Atos doctor  

I started receiving benefits after being given less than 3 years to live. And now the Government wants to make life even harder for people like me

Lesley Roberts
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor