The Fishing Bill is going through Parliament and I despair for common sense. The most basic rule of human survival on a finite planet is don’t take more than nature can provide. Yet, there are no binding legal commitments not to fish above scientifically recommended sustainable levels. As it stands the Fisheries Bill breaks the Conservative Manifesto promise to “a legal commitment to fish sustainably”. It also appears that that Ministers have no intention of keeping the legal commitment set out in Article 2 of the Community Fisheries Policy to set catch limits at maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2020.
Instead of legally binding limits we have management plans. These plans sound sensible enough, but without the legally enforced limits, then the short-term needs of the fishing industry may be put ahead of the long-term needs of the fish stocks and eco-collapse from over-fishing may well result.
Nor does the Fisheries Bill include any legal commitments around how the Secretary of State should seek to ensure the sustainability of stocks shared with other coastal states. This represents a real backwards step from what we have now and seems silly given that fish move around. The result could be a culture of ‘grab what you can, until its all gone’ and soon, if we don’t amend this bill, it will all be gone.