On Monday we staged a 'funeral' for the 'last cod' at the Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) office in Westminster. This was to coincide with the EU Environment Council meeting where our minister Ben Bradshaw, together with his European counterparts, was again failing to protect our oceans.
We took a metre-long model of a cod, in a funeral procession, to Defra's doorstep - prompting one member of Defra staff to ask a colleague 'who is "Cod"?' … not a good sign, for someone working in the department responsible for protecting our marine life…
This year, for the seventh year in a row the EU's own scientists have recommended that there should be NO quotas set for cod in the North Sea. Why? Quite simply because there aren't enough cod left.
We think that's a relatively straightforward argument. It's one that should be heeded by our ministers because, if it's not the collapse of cod in our seas will be entirely their fault. And they know it can happen - it happened to the Grand Banks cod fisheries in the early nineties, and they have never recovered. Yet it looks like our governments will again set quotas, allowing cod to be caught in the North Sea. They will argue that they are making cuts, and have made cuts over the past years. But these cuts don't equal zero cod quotas, so they are defying the very scientific advice they pay for and say they are respecting!
When you then factor in that cod is also overfished by illegal landings, and as bycatch (of mostly underage fish) in other fisheries - and the problem gets worse.
But even setting zero quotas for cod is not enough in itself. We need to move towards more sustainable ways of fishing, which is why we're working with supermarkets to get them to source fish more sustainably.
A big part of the solution however is to set aside large areas of our ocean as Marine Reserves - areas off limits to dumping and all extractive uses, including fishing. Not only would these protect the oceans' biodiversity and allow it to recover, but they would create places where fish stocks that we want to continue to fish commercially can recover and thrive.
And these need to be big to work. They need to be big to be resilient to uncertain fluctuations caused by climate change, for example - which is why Greenpeace is calling for 40 percent of our oceans to be set aside as Marine Reserves. Yet our ministers are failing us on Marine Resreves too, despite the opportunity to create them through the UK's Marine Bill and the EU's Marine Strategy Directive, the political will just is not there.
It's high time we protected our marine environment, and the species and people that depend on it, or the funeral for cod in the North Sea may just become a reality.