Last Friday was World Oceans Day. Being an oceans campaigner that, on one hand, means a lot – but on the other it begs the question of why the rest of the world doesn’t think about oceans all the other days, like I do!?
We marked the day with an event in Plymouth, sharing a stage with fishermen, the National Marine Aquarium, and artist Kurt Jackson, to officially launch our Be a Fisherman’s Friend campaign in the south west.
As if to illustrate how we can’t just leave the fate of our oceans to one day each year, all the while I was in Plymouth we were also frantically preparing for a crucial meeting on European fisheries reform. This week - tomorrow in fact - European fisheries ministers face a crunch meeting as part of the process of reforming Europe’s fish laws. This is something that affects all of us, whether we are interested in fish, fishing, or conservation, and something we have to pressure our elected representatives to get right.
You might have seen the full page advert in the Times today, one that was replicated in Polish, Spanish and French newspapers, by the fine people at Hugh’s Fish Fight. They were letting our ministers know that we, the tax-paying European public, are watching them, and expect a fair deal from this reform process.
There are a few headline issues at stake tomorrow, such as the recovery of our fish stocks (pretty fundamental, when 70% of Europe’s fish stocks are currently overfished), and an agreement to end the scandal of discards. It also looks worryingly like ministers might backtrack on progress to make distant water fishing fleets (that’s European boats catching fish in places like West Africa and the Indian Ocean) better regulated, and ensure they are not simply stealing other people's fish.
We all need to make sure that our elected representatives know we care that they get this stuff right – so if you’re on Twitter, then do please tweet at the UK minister @RichardBenyonMP and demand a strong, meaningful reform of those European laws that have let us down so badly.
And closer to home you can also remind our minister that he can, and should, also ensure a fairer deal for the low-impact end of the fishing industry. Greenpeace is working with fishermen in many EU countries, including here in the UK, to try and give the more responsible parts of the sector preferential access to fishing quotas – something that should be a no-brainer, really.
That’s the essence of our Be a Fisherman’s Friend campaign, and if you haven’t done so already, send your own personalised sea shanty petition to Richard Benyon to join the campaign.
Today may not be World Ocean’s Day, but with this crucial meeting tomorrow, it’s a hugely important day for you to speak up for our oceans, our fish, and our sustainable fishermen.