IoS letters, emails & online postings (30 November 2014)

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The Independent Online

Ben Bradshaw's article "Our route to a safer planet begins at sea" (16 November) is a call for the delivery of the full UK network of marine protected areas by 2016. His campaign worries fishermen who face being displaced from their fishing grounds; it should also worry scientists and all those who are genuine about conservation of the marine environment.

A rushed process is a recipe for failure. Ben Bradshaw's call to arms is an example of the blundering amateur – ex-minister or not – and includes a number of inaccuracies. Closed areas did not play a significant role in rebuilding the North American cod stocks in the 1980s.

Bass stocks have not "collapsed". Poor recruitment and high fishing pressure (both commercial and recreational) have led to a decline in biomass. It's important to introduce balanced and proportionate constraints to reverse this trend.

West Country boats are not tied up, as he implies, because of overfishing of skates and rays but because of quotas drastically reduced to meet a short-sighted and arbitrary policy timetable. Measures other than marine conservation zones have been shown to deliver. Scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea confirm that since the year 2000 fishing pressure across all the main species groups in the North Atlantic has been halved and fish stocks are responding – some very dramatically, like North Sea plaice, others more slowly, as we would expect.

The Government's policy of implementing a network of marine conservation zones, carefully and progressively, is the correct approach. It is in no one's interest to put marine protected areas in the wrong place. Only if you are content to have a tick-box exercise could you support rushing into this.

Barrie Deas

Chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, York

The article "Limit gambling machine bets to £2, say councils" (23 November) includes statements about betting shops that are untrue.

The article refers to gaming machines as "addictive", yet no independent empirical research has been produced stating that – indeed, the first major study into this issue is being published in December.

The claims that there are twice as many betting shops in the most deprived areas than the least is nonsense – only 17 per cent of betting shops are located in the most deprived areas of the country. This is the conclusion of an independent report by the Local Data Company.

The Gambling Commission, which is the regulator of all gambling, states that the number of betting shops is in decline – there are fewer betting shops now than there were in 2011; indeed, there are fewer betting shops than six months ago. It is disappointing to see a retail sector that employs more than 40,000 people and has eight million customers misrepresented to such a degree.

Paul Darling

Chairman, Association of British Bookmakers

London SW1

The gender gap begins in primary school with boys benefiting more from the pupil premium than girls ("Funding for poorer pupils helps more boys than girls, study shows", 23 November).

The impact of this may last a lifetime; girls leaving school with few qualifications are given far fewer opportunities than boys in the same situation. While girls do better than boys at GCSEs overall, the gap in GCSE results is greater between disadvantaged and other girls than it is between their male equivalents.

The fact that girls who get on with their work and don't play truant lose out to disruptive boys is unfair, but it's not nearly as unfair as having to pay the price for this for life.

Carole Easton

Chief executive, Young Women's Trust

London N1

Thank goodness for Katy Guest's column last Sunday. Ed Miliband needs to remember that he leads the Labour Party; he should stand up to the bigots increasingly represented by Ukip, let David Cameron destroy his party by lurching to the right, and nurture the huge support he could have from liberal-minded people wanting a fair-minded society. That is what the Labour Party is for.

Peter Brookes

Wakefield, West Yorkshire

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