SUSTAINABILITY: Benyon hits out at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in defence of sea conservation plans

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage H...
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage HQ 03052006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


UK environment minister says campaigners do not understand the costs involved in creating ‘properly’ protected zones. The Guardian reports

The environment minister, Richard Benyon, has hit back at critics of the UK’s plans to protect England‘s marine life, singling out campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as failing to understand the cost involved in creating dozens of “properly” protected marine conservation zones(MCZs).

Writing in the Guardian on Friday, Benyon said the TV chef did not think “he would trouble his viewers with matters of cost”, but the minister did not “have that luxury”.

Fearnley-Whittingstall led a march on Westminster last month, urging the government to stick to its original plan of designating 127 MCZs that would be protected from damaging trawling and dredging. Last December the government said it would create just 31 zones because of a lack of scientific evidence on other sites.

But Benyon was trenchant in his defence of the smaller number of zones, writing: “I had a conversation with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and explained that it was quite an achievement to have got this far at a time when government budgets were being cut. I asked him to suggest, if I ignored the science and designated all 127 sites at a cost of millions, where should I get the money?”

He argued that it was better to have fewer zones that are policed by enforcement agencies rather than more “lines on maps”.

“For some it’s a binary issue. Designate all 127 or you are a penny-pinching minister who is in the pocket of the fishing industry. In fact it would have been easy to designate vast areas of the UK’s waters that are of little ecological value because it would have looked good on a map. Instead we are doing this properly.”

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is running a consultation on MCZs that closes on 31 March.

Responding to Benyon’s comments, Fearnley-Whittingstall told the Guardian: “The sticking point for me and for the tens of thousands of citizens who have written to the Defra consultation on MCZs in support of a full network of sites to protect our seas is simple. Benyon has given no timeframe for a second tranche of sites or even a commitment that there will be any more at all beyond the first 31. Given yet another opportunity to do so in today’s Guardian he has failed to take it.”

He added: “He can hardly be surprised if we question whether he is losing his ambition on MCZs. Or perhaps he is losing government support to deliver on his original commitment for a fully coherent network? If he says he needs more science and more money, then that is a reasonable point we can all discuss – but he needs to couple it with a clear commitment to go further, otherwise what will that money and that science be for?”

Joan Edwards, head of living seas for the Wildlife Trusts, which has been at the forefront of campaigning for a larger network of zones, said: “Government says it wants more evidence to show that the rest of the 127 sites are worthy of protection. However, there is an existing mass [of evidence] which has not yet been taken into account, including its own evidence, collected at a cost of £5m, and more gathered by stakeholders in 2012.. For meaningful marine protection to begin, the minister must now set a clear timetable for the designation of a wider network. Our seas’ resources are not inexhaustible.”

A spokesman at the National Trust said it was “disappointed” that only 31 out of 127 originally recommended zones were going ahead. He said: “We believe that the ‘precautionary’ principle should apply with the full list of 127 protected until full and proper consideration has been given to all proposed marine conservation zones. There is an urgent need for the government to work in collaboration with others to produce a timetable for designation of the full network of 127 sites.”

SUSTAINABILITY UPDATE: Marine fight taken to Westminster

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage H...
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage HQ 03052006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 25th February 2013, in association with Sea Life and supported by Hugh’s Fish Fight and the British Sub-Aqua Club, MCS is holding a mass rally in support of 127 Marine Conservation Zones for English seas.


Led by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, hundreds of friends and supporters will join together for a big loud colourful carnival style procession from the South Bank, across Westminster Bridge to the Palace of Westminster.



Bad news for sustainability – Tuna fishing ban in Pacific partially lifted

Yellowfin tuna are being fished as a replaceme...
Yellowfin tuna are being fished as a replacement for the now largely depleted Southern bluefin tuna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When will we ever learn? Just when we are making progress to make a fish sustainable…

Pacific nations have reopened the Pacific high seas to commercial tuna fishing after a two-year ban imposed to preserve declining big eye tuna stocks. Comments here or at Learn From Nature

In a meeting in Guam last week, member countries of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) lifted the fishing ban on pockets 1 and 2 of the Pacific Ocean.

The WCPFC is a 25-member organisation including Australia, the EU, Japan, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines that oversees and regulates migratory fish stocks such as tuna and marlin in the Pacific. Its jurisdiction covers 20% of the planet’s surface.

In January 2010, the WCPFC placed the ban on parts of the Pacific Ocean, where 60% of the world’s tuna are sourced, to conserve the population of the bigeye tuna, which scientists classified as overfished. Other tuna species like skipjack, yellowfin, and albacore also found in the Pacific high seas but their numbers have not reached an alarming low.

Although it lifted the ban, the commission maintained that entry to the marine reserves would be limited, refusing proposals from the European Community and South Korea for a free-for-all access to one of the world’s richest fishing grounds.

“The Pacific Commons is now open. But for all practical purposes, access will be limited,” said Mark Dia of Greenpeace. “They knew that everybody would suffer if a free-for-all access is granted,” he added.

Permitted areas for tuna fishing in the Pacific OceanThe permitted areas for tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean

The WCPFC approved the request of the Philippine government, the third top tuna harvester in the Pacific after Japan and South Korea, to fish in pocket 1 of the Pacific, which is bounded by the island nations of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.

In exchange for fishing access, the Philippine government must report its catch and limit the number of fishing vessels to 36, Dia said. Filipino vessels must also apply for international fishing permits before entering pocket 1.

The Philippines’ fisheries director Asis Perez said the ban brought hard times to the local fishing sector. He also noted that the fishing ban was counterproductive for the Philippines as it forced fishing companies to harvest in its national waters, which is considered to be a spawning ground for various types of tuna, he said.

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Taiwan : To be or not to be … sustainable?

Trawler Hauling Nets Source: http://www.photol...
Trawler Hauling Nets Source: (was (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deutsch: Schriftzug von Greenpeace English: Gr...

The Taiwanese government failed to push for sustainable fishing at the recently concluded Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commissions’ meeting, the local branch of Greenpeace East Asia reports. Comments here or at Learn From Nature 

As one of the world’s major fishing powers, Taiwan did not exercise as much influence as it should have to block new measures that could destroy fish populations, the group said.

According to Greenpeace, instead of stepping up efforts to protect marine life, the meeting, which was held in Guam from Monday to Friday last week, unraveled existing measures to preserve the region’s fisheries resources by reopening certain high-seas fishing grounds to destructive fishing methods.

Although Taiwan voted against the initiative, which was mainly pushed through by South Korea and the US, its reluctance to come up with a rescue plan showed its weakness on the issue, Greenpeace said.

Disappointed by the meeting’s decisions, Greenpeace East Asia senior ocean campaigner Kao Yu-fen (高于棻),who attended the meeting this year as an observer, said: “Due to the short-term economic considerations of a few members, the decision was a major setback in ocean conservation, sounding a death knell for fish resources in the area.”

“As the member owning the most fishing vessels in the area, Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency should take a leading role to actively guide the commission toward applying sustainable methods, instead of passively waiting for the decisions,” she said.

Greenpeace said Taiwan has more than 1,600 fishing vessels in the Western and Central Pacific, while a large proportion of Taiwan’s long-distance fish production comes from tuna.

Taiwan Greenpeace oceans campaigner Yen Ning (顏寧) said seine fishing had been banned in two high-seas pockets that were closed in 2008, while the use of fish aggregating devices was limited to less than three months per year, to allow tuna populations in the area to recover to the same level as 2004.

Reopening these areas will likely cause further fish depletion, she said.

The Fisheries Agency, which represented Taiwan at the meeting, disagreed, describing the meeting’s results as constructive.

“We don’t see it as a partial reopening of the Pacific Commons. It’s more about different methods of fishing management,” said Lin Ding-rong (S), deputy director of the agency’s Deep Sea Fisheries Division.

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Sustainability Update : ‘Wind farms are useless’, says Duke

Icon of Wind Turbines
Image via Wikipedia

In a withering assault on the onshore wind turbine industry, the Duke said the farms were “a disgrace”. The Sunday Telegraph reports |!/LearnFromNature

He also criticised the industry’s reliance on subsidies from electricity customers, claimed wind farms would “never work” and accused people who support them of believing in a “fairy tale”.

The Duke’s comments will be seized upon by the burgeoning lobby who say wind farms are ruining the countryside and forcing up energy bills.

Criticism of their effect on the environment has mounted, with The Sunday Telegraph disclosing today that turbines are being switched off during strong winds following complaints about their noise.

The Duke’s views are politically charged, as they put him at odds with the Government’s policy significantly to increase the amount of electricity generated by wind turbines.

The country has 3,421 turbines — 2,941 of them onshore — with another 4,500 expected to be built under plans for wind power to play a more important role in providing Britain’s energy.

Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, last month called opponents of the plans “curmudgeons and fault-finders” and described turbines as “elegant” and “beautiful”.

The Duke’s attack on the turbines, believed to be the first public insight into his views on the matter, came in a conversation with the managing director of a leading wind farm company.

When Esbjorn Wilmar, of Infinergy, which builds and operates turbines, introduced himself to the Duke at a reception in London, he found himself on the end of an outspoken attack on his industry.

“He said they were absolutely useless, completely reliant on subsidies and an absolute disgrace,” said Mr Wilmar. “I was surprised by his very frank views.”

Mr Wilmar said his attempts to argue that onshore wind farms were one of the most cost-effective forms of renewable energy received a fierce response from the Duke.

“He said, ‘You don’t believe in fairy tales do you?’” said Mr Wilmar. “He said that they would never work as they need back-up capacity.”

One of the main arguments of the anti-wind farm lobby is that because turbines do not produce electricity without wind, there is still a need for other ways to generate power.

Their proponents argue that it is possible to build “pump storage” schemes, which would use excess energy from wind power to pump water into reservoirs to generate further electricity in times of high demand and low supply.

It emerged last year that electricity customers are paying an average of £90 a year to subsidise wind farms and other forms of renewable energy as part of a government scheme to meet carbon-reduction targets.

Mr Wilmar said one of the main reasons the Duke thought onshore wind farms to be “a very bad idea” was their reliance on such subsidies.

The generous financial incentives being offered to green energy developers have led landowners to look to build wind farms on their estates, including the Duke of Gloucester, the Queen’s cousin.

Prince Philip, however, said he would never consider allowing his land to be used for turbines, which can be up to 410ft tall, and he bemoaned their impact on the countryside.

Mr Wilmar said: “I suggested to him to put them on his estate, and he said, ‘You stay away from my estate young man’.

“He said he thought that they’re not nice at all for the landscape.”

The Duke’s comments echo complaints made by his son, the Prince of Wales, who has refused to have any built on Duchy of Cornwall land.

Yet a turbine will be erected opposite the Castle of Mey in Caithness, where he stays for a week every August, if a farmer succeeds in gaining planning permission from Highland Council.

While they are opposed to onshore wind farms, the Royal family stands to earn millions of pounds from those placed offshore.

Last year, the Crown Estate, the £7billion land and property portfolio, approved an increase in the number of sites around the coast of England. The Crown Estate owns almost all of the seabed off Britain’s 7,700-mile coastline.

Experts predict that the growth in offshore wind farms could be worth £250million a year. Britain has 436 offshore turbines, but within a decade that number will reach nearly 7,000. From 2013, the Royal family’s Civil List payments will be replaced, and instead they will receive 15 per cent of the Crown Estate’s profits, although the Queen, the Duke, the Prince of Wales and other members of the family do not have any say over how the estate makes its money.

Mr Wilmar was at a reception last week in Chelsea, west London, marking the 70th anniversary of the Council of Christians and Jews at which the Queen and Duke were guests of honour.

The Dutch businessman’s company describes itself as committed to preserving the planet. Infinergy, which is a subsidiary of the Dutch firm KDE Energy, is planning to build on a number of sites across the country, from the north of Scotland to Totnes in Devon.

Mr Wilmar claims that onshore turbines are less reliant on subsidies and more cost-effective than those built in the sea. “If you go offshore it costs you twice as much as being on-shore because you have to lay foundations in the sea,” he said. “It’s very expensive for very obvious reasons.”

Two-thirds of the country’s wind turbines are owned by foreign companies, which are estimated to reap £500million a year in subsidies.

A spokesman for the Duke said that Buckingham Palace would not comment about a private conversation.

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