I remember when they closed the cod fisheries off the east coast of Canada. I was just finishing high school in a sleepy town in Nova Scotia. It was probably the first time an environmental disaster touched my life. You see, almost half my family are fishermen.
Even before the stocks were closed I remember my uncles talking about the dwindling fish, but rather than easing off they were hunting them down to cash in as the cost of the fish rose. I suppose it was unimaginable to them that these fish - which used to make the seas around the Grand Banks bubble - could ever disappear.
And now here I am, more than 10 years later on the other side of the Atlantic, and I have a foreboding sense of déjà vu. For the last seven years government ministers have ignored their own scientific advisors on cod fishing in the North Sea – and it’s the cod stocks and ultimately the fishing industry that will pay the penalty.
The scientists say that a cod stock in the North Sea of 150,000 tonnes is the bare minimum required, yet stocks are currently estimated at under 70,000 tonnes and describes them as ‘outside safe biological limits’. And, unless governments listen to their scientists, we risk losing the traditional ‘cod and chips.’
The European Fisheries Council has consistently chosen to ignore the dire warnings from experts – and 80 per cent of all Europe’s fish stocks are now in serious trouble. So, this morning we shut them out of the EU council building where they are due to agree next years quotas.
About 200 volunteers have blocked all entrances to the building just as European Fisheries Ministers were about to arrive. Around 50 of these volunteers built a 30 metre long wall blocking the main entrance.
The fisheries ministers and their bungling bureaucrats can’t be trusted to make the right decision for the fish stocks or the fishing industry, so we are keeping them out and are calling on environment ministers to step in and protect cod stocks in the North Sea. We are also calling for the creation of large scale marine reserves now, to allow cod and other stocks a chance to recover.
The cod stocks on the east coast of Canada have still not recovered and my uncles no longer argue with me about environmental issues.
You can help by writing to Environment Minister Hilary Benn and asking him to support the creation of Marine Reserves to protect the cod stocks and our ocean ecology.