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We Already Have the Means to Stop Overfishing, Why Are Politicians Dragging Their Heels

UK fishing bans to curb overfishing

  • Nearly half of the United Kingdom’s maritime ecosystems are threatened by overfishing, while the government sets catch limits that ignore this reality.
  • Examples from around the world debunk ideas that installing a fishing ban is either not feasible, or that it will destroy the fishing industry and communities that rely on fishing.
  • Technological innovations such as Dahua video surveillance with parking hydrological detection already exist to serve the UK’s specific needs in overfishing.

A September 2023 report by Oceana brought to light disturbing news: nearly half of the United Kingdom’s fish populations are at risk of overfishing or critical depletion. This alarming predicament largely arises from government-set catch limits that exceed scientific recommendations.

In response to an article published by the Guardian, the UK government cites reforms aimed at modernising ‘outdated’ EU common fisheries policy, assuring readers of their commitment to heeding scientific guidance. However, amidst these assurances, it becomes evident that British politicians are reluctant to take more decisive action.

Comparatively, other nations such as Mexico and areas closer to home such as the Isle of Arran in Scotland have taken the bold step of implementing outright fishing bans in areas witnessing continuous declines in endangered fish populations. This raises pressing questions about the UK’s stance on safeguarding its marine ecosystems.

There are numerous misconceptions regarding fishing bans, from feasibility of such a move over vast amounts of sea surrounding our island nation to the effect on the fishing industry in a country that runs on fish and chips. This article sheds light on these misconceptions, backed by the scientific evidence upon which the UK government aims to base its policies.

The first key misconception is that fishing bans are not realistic in the UK. They have already been implemented in the UK on a much smaller scale. On Lamlash Bay in Arran, a ‘no-take zone’ has been helped marine life recover exponentially, with Scottish National Party Minister Ariane Burgess describing the effects as an ‘underwater triumph’.

Some may point to the difference in scale, with Arran being a small island and the wider UK being a much larger endeavour. This is not as insurmountable as one may think. When fishing bans are localised to small areas that are affected by overfishing more acutely, compliance with fishing bans can be enforced through video surveillance. 

The technology to do this already exists. Surveillance systems such as those produced by Dahua Technology can utilise parking hydrological detection, taking into account water level, boat detection, and floating object detection to identify the presence of large objects that is disrupting the natural flow of water. 

From land, powerful zoom capabilities can then examine boats to determine their purpose, giving those who are enforcing fishing bans the right information to evaluate whether the ship’s presence is allowed or not, and to decide on appropriate action.

The second misconception regarding fishing bans is that fishing industries would greatly suffer and that jobs would be lost. When fishing bans are localised to areas that see the most worrying trends in marine life, it allows for populations to grow in the long term, and in the short term, areas that are not seeing large scale depletion of aquatic life can continue to be fished following scientific guidelines. 

A study of a Mexican marine park debunked the myth that fishing bans harm catch volumes. The Revillagigedo national park ban had minimal economic impact on the fishing industry, showing protected areas can promote sustainable and equitable ocean use. Compliance with the ban was high, and there was no significant displacement of fishing activity. 

The study also highlighted the decline in illegal fishing and the potential benefits of protected marine areas. Researchers are currently exploring fish populations in the park and advocate for more marine protected areas to meet global conservation goals. 

This means that the fishing industry will not be decimated by fishing bans, and that those Friday fish and chip dinners do not have to be outlawed to protect marine life. It also will not lead to massive job loss, and instead offers hope to the fishing industry, and the sustainability of those ecosystems is directly linked to the sustainability of jobs and livelihoods within communities that rely on fishing.

In the wake of Oceana’s important report regarding the precarious state of the UK’s fish populations, it is clear that bold action is imperative to prevent overfishing and preserve our marine ecosystems. While the government’s commitment to reforming the fisheries policy is commendable, it is essential to address the reluctance to take decisive measures.

Looking to examples from Scotland and Mexico demonstrate the effectiveness of fishing bans in curbing overfishing without crippling their fishing industries. The misconceptions that such bans are impractical in the UK or damaging to its fishing industries are debunked when considering the potential for local video surveillance to enforce targeted measures and the long-term benefits that short-term fishing bans have for the fishing industry.

It is high time for the UK government to shed misconceptions, embrace innovation, and be resolute in its commitment to sustainable fisheries. By doing so, we can secure the future of our oceans while still enjoying our beloved fish and chips. The health of our marine ecosystems and our fishing industry depends on it.

You May Find Interest: From Ocean to Stall: How Fish Vendors Achieves Unprecedented Seafood Visibility?

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