Letters: Declining fish stocks

Drastic action needed to save the marine ecosystem
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Your excellent campaign on the EU fisheries policy and the problem of declining fish stocks has a simple answer (“North Sea madness”, 18 November).

Identify some of the best habitats for the feeding and breeding of fish and then declare them absolute no-fishing zones. The rest of the ocean would then be free-fishing zones where the fishermen could fish at will. The conservation zones would gradually regenerate both habitat and fish, flora and fauna. When the fish become too crowded in the no fishing zones they will roam outside these protected areas and the fishermen will then decide among themselves how many they should catch. If they then destroy the sea bed and overfish the free fishing zones they have only themselves to blame for their loss of livelihood. Actual fishing or not fishing is a lot easier to police than quotas and landings.

The last government did create some small marine-conservation zones in which the entire biosystem regenerated spectacularly within a very short time. The principle has already been proven and only needs expanding on to a larger scale. The cost is minimal and would guarantee the survival of the marine ecosystem.

Rob Brownell

Colchester, Essex

“North Sea madness” rightly highlights the travesty of “fish discards”. Although it refers briefly to the conservation measures undertakenby Scottish fishermen,it overlooks just how determined Scotland has been in recent years to find a way to end a system that forces fishermen to discard viable fish back in to the sea, dead.

The Scottish fleet is the largest in the North Sea and lands two-thirds of the UK catch. We are clear that we cannot afford to wait for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2013 to tackle the scourge of discards. That is why we are pressing for a fundamental shift from quotas which restrict landings to quotas based on catches, or “catch quotas”.

Our catch-quota trials, where fishermen land every fish they net, has at its heart exactly what campaigners like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are looking for – an end to discards. We have already succeeded in reducing Scottish discards of cod in the North Sea by a third.

We wish to extend this to the whole whitefish fleet and to more species. I would also like to see participating fishermen released from restrictions on the time they spend at sea so that they are not forced into a race to fish. The Scottish trial scheme requires CCTV monitoring to ensure no discards, and demonstrates that fishermen themselves are willing to change practices to ensure a positive future for the North Sea fishery.

A system of compulsory discards within a conservation plan is fundamentally flawed, and Scotland has been pushing alternative proposals – even while working under a broken Common Fisheries Policy. With negotiations currently underway in Brussels, I welcome the additional profile being brought to this abhorrent practice and the support of campaigners to our efforts to end the scandal of discards.

Richard Lochhead

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment,


The Common Fisheries Policy is disastrous for fisheries and must be addressed. If people ate the government’s recommended two fish a week we would need an extra 33m portions of oily fish alone, requiring 314,000 tonnes of extra fish for the UK. Our population is rising but over 70 per cent of EU stocks are already overfished. We can’t even rely on farmed fish as many require wild fish for their diet. Saving a million tonnes of discards would definitely help.

The CFP needs a radical overhaul, but consumers can also play a role. Many discards are fish without a market, which are cheap, good quality and local. We should begin to learn how to enjoy seafood that goes beyond the 10 species that account for three-quarters of fish sold in the UK.

Melissa Pritchard

Marine Scientist

ClientEarth, London E8

I am surprised to find myself in agreement, for once, with Nigel Farage MEP (“Europe rules the waves – for now”, 19 November), but he is quite right when he says that the EU must change its policy on fishing quotas.

The whole system of quotas leads inevitably to complete depletion of stocks, especially if size limits mean that under-sized fish are thrown back dead into the sea. What quotas do is merely to slice up an ever-diminishing resource. They don’t do anything for long-term sustainability.

Farmers have long known that farmland needs, from time to time, to be left fallow to allow it to recover. The same is true of the sea. Whole areas of sea should be left completely unfished for several years so that fish stocks therein can become productive again. All the species in these areas, not just the edible ones, should be left untouched so that nature can restore its proper ecological balance.

Chris Payne


In your 18 November issue Steve Richards opines: “Of course politicians cannot speak their minds on a range of issues, but the issue of the monarchy is almost unique in compelling declarations of dutiful worship”, and your front page “North Sea madness” manages to describe the insanity and obscenity of the destruction of our fisheries without once mentioning the blindingly obvious fact that this catastrophe wouldn’t have occurred, had it not been for our membership of the lunatic European Union.

Forget the monarchy, Steve.

Robert Gibson

Windermere, Westmorland

Listen to Lord Young: his is the voice of experience

I am tired of hearing the criticism of Lord Young for saying people now have never had it so good (report, 19 November). He is absolutely right; he talks like an old man of experience.

I am 80, and I remember the years after the war, before central heating, when we were happy to have a coal fire in the sitting room, and had to dress and undress the children in front of it. We were very cold in winter; living in Clacton on Sea, the metal windows could not stop the wind from the north blowing the curtains.

There was hot water from a back boiler for our weekly bath. We had no fridge and, as for a washing machine, I was over 50 before I had one.

In the school holidayswe took in French students and with the money that made we got a lovely black-and-white television; we were so excited – at the time it was very avant garde. To go to the cinema was a very happy occasion; we could not afford restaurants or holidays because we were payingour mortgage.

So people of my generation think that people today are really spoiled. Young pups like Miliband and Cameron have never suffered anything in their cushy little lives and cannot take advice from the older generation.

It is clear why the Chinese are so far ahead of us; they have old leaders with experience and they are not afraid of hard work.

Madeleine Kekwick

London SE15

Lord Young couldn’t have put it better! There are too many people who have “never had it so good” at the expense of the ordinary, hard-working, honest taxpaying families.

Politicians, bankers and traders who gambled our pensions and savings away, wealthy tax-evading individuals and corporations and downright cheaters –but they are not the ones Cameron and Clegg want to draw attention to.

George Appleby


Headline: “Politician forced to resign after telling the truth.”

Nat Langdon

Woodford Green, Essex

Doubts about Academy schools

As school governors we are deeply concerned that the drive for schools to “go it alone” as Academies will do nothing to improve education and will have serious implications for the most disadvantaged students.

Encouraging schools to opt out of the Local Authority framework appears to be more about political ideology than the needs of young people. This became clear at a recent presentation on Academies to chairs of governors and headteachers by our local authority, Nottinghamshire county council.

We were saddened, though not surprised, that a senior councillor saw the event as a platform to voice overtly party-political views, with a ringing endorsement of the Academies programme that will, if it continues, result in the dismantling of our local authority education system.

More disappointing was the absence of clear and balanced answers to key questions about the implications of converting to Academy status.

Buzzwords abounded – freedom, flexibility, diversity and choice. Services could be bought in from the local authority or, we were told; private companies would be happy to provide such things as insurance cover and buildings maintenance.

Academies will not have to follow the National Curriculum and will be free to set their own admissions policies, subject to a “code of honour”. Changes to catchment areas would be possible but only after consultation.

On key issues, however, the answers were worryingly sketchy. For example, if schools took out insurance privately would they get the same rapid response and level of attention they get from a local authority? The answer was less than reassuring.

What about resources for the young people who need extra support? What are the implications for funding for pupils with Special Educational Needs? No final answer on that yet.

Most importantly, the question that lies at the heart of this enormous restructuring of our schools system: what benefits would Academy status bring for students? No one on the panel seemed able to provide an answer.

Margaret Summerfield

Arthur Summerfield

Jane Marshall

David Mitchell


Should prisoners all be online?

At this year’s Longford lecture, the subject was the right of prisoners to be online. The speaker, Martha Lane Fox, argued with some passion that everyone should be online but said little about how this might work in prisons.

As someone who has worked for the past nine years in a Young Offenders’ institution teaching literacy, I am far from convinced this would be a good idea.

First, it would be fantastically expensive. Second, prisoners already spend far too much time alone in their cells, and many have poor verbal communication skills.

Third, while Jonathan Aitken commented recently that most prisoners wouldn’t give a toss about having the vote, they certainly would about having access to computers, and not necessarily for socially benign purposes.

Some of my students arrive unable to write their own addresses; but others would be quite enterprising and quick enough to make computer safety a problem.

Diana Dunwoodie

London, W11

Remember the medical staff, too

Another Remembrance Day ceremonial has come and gone and once again all the Services are remembered and thanked, and rightly so. With one glaring omission: the doctors and nurses who staffed our hospitals and gave aid to the casualties – sometimes while the bombs were falling on the buildings in which they worked – and who attended the funerals of their colleagues who were killed. There aren’t many of us survivors left now. Please include us in your thoughts, too, at future Remembrance Day services.

Eileen Evans SRN

Worthing, West Sussex

A Queen without a kingdom

Just days after the Royal engagement is announced, we are already reading about the “future Queen of England” (Notebook, 18 November).

Whatever the future has in store for Miss Middleton it is not likely to be that unless the United Kingdom is broken up and England re-established as an independent kingdom.

There has not been a Queen of England since 1707 when Anne, as Queen of England, signed the English Parliament’s Act of Union, having previously, as Queen of Scots, signed the Scottish Parliament’s Act, thus abolishing both kingdoms as independent kingdoms, and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain. That title has subsequently been amended to include Ireland, later Northern Ireland, but since 1707 England has not been mentioned in the title.

Donald MacCallum

Milton Keynes

Footballers’ pay

You report that changes are planned to link teachers’ pay to performance (16 November). Can we not apply this system to premier league footballers?

Doug Meredith


Aye, begorrah

I was amused to see in your report on the economic crisis in Ireland (17 November) the phrase “the boggy north-west”. English newspapers can never resist certain stereotypes about that island. Congratulations on maintaining an old tradition!

Seán Mac Nialluis

Hexham, Northumberland

Perspectives on the House of Lords

Chance for radical overhaul missed

What a shame. I do not think I was the only one to see the possibility of a radical and brave political reformer in David Cameron and now he seems to have refused at the first fence. His nominations for the Lords (and those of the other parties) send the worst possible political message to a still disenchanted electorate.

We could overcome many difficulties by populating the second chamber with the retiring senior officers of some of our many worthy institutions (CBI, the unions,

Institute of Directors, RSPCA, Countryside Alliance, Institution of Engineering and Technology etc). Democratic legitimacy would be obtained by having our MPs decide which institutions would be given this privilege and they could review their decision each parliamentary term.

We would then have a second chamber filled with men and women with vast experience of the widest range of professional, commercial, charitable, artistic, academic and social disciplines. They could all be cross-benchers as they would owe no party their vote for the privilege of having been installed as a peer.

John Griffin

Chepstow, Gwent

The prescience of George Orwell

Whenever I read of self-declared so-called socialists such as John Prescott, and now Oona King, donning the ermine and joining the highly privileged Lords, I cannot help but recall the final scene in Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, when the rest of the animals look through the window of the farmhouse as the once-revolutionary pigs entertain the farmers of the area: “No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” Perhaps this quote could be engraved above the entrance to their Lordships’ House?

Colin Burke


Is there no way to be rid of Oona King?

The Lords’ honours list comes out – and democracy takes another beating. There are now many us – particularly those of us from black British diasporas – who are wondering what it takes for us to see the back of Oona King. As an MP she ruthlessly carried out the leadership’s will, enforcing policies that harmed the life chances of working-class and minority members at home, and recreated the horror of western imperialism abroad.

The first time she was faced with on old Labour challenger the electorate gratefully dumped her.She then lost again when challenging Ken Livingstone.

But no matter what Labour supporters and voters want, it seems she is going to be foisted on us. And Ed Miliband tries to tell us that New Labour is dead.

Gavin Lewis


Make it even

The Tories are accused of stuffing the House of Lords. I am all in favour of the Upper House as a scrutiny body, but credible scrutiny requires objective positions. Why not rule that there must be at least as many independent members as those of any one party?

Chris Bennett