‘Good Environmental Status’: How Good is Good?

A hot topic at the minute in UK fisheries is the allocation of cod quota amongst the under 10m fishing fleet; despite compromising the majority of the UK’s <10m fleet is allocated only 3% of the annual cod quota from the EU.

This is bad socially – some offshore fishermen are making a killing whilst many inshore fishermen are making losses – and bad environmentally in terms of the amount of legally sized cod that has to be discarded, brought to public attention by Hugh’s Fish Fight (http://www.fishfight.net). Many hope that the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy will go some way to resolve the discards issue.

Studying fisheries is no doubt a complicated science. However, technical solutions such as MPAs and quota can only go so far in solving the current crisis. Divergences in people’s environmental values add an extra dimension to the problem.

In my last blog posting (http://bit.ly/rr8AuO), I raised the issue of ambiguity around the term ‘Good Environmental Status’ currently being used as the benchmark for marine environmental conservation.

This ambiguity over how ‘good’ is good is brought to light in the debates surrounding bottom trawling; whereas many environmentalists and some scientists are adamant that bottom trawling is akin to forest clear cutting, having negative effects on the productivity of marine ecosystems through loss of fish habitat, others are more critical of this view suggesting that heavily trawled areas remain fished because they continue to remain biologically productive.

A good environment from a green perspective is one that is pristine, one that has been restored to a pre-exploitive state. A good environment from a fisherman’s perspective is one that continues to remain biologically productive; this does not necessarily mean that the seabed should be restored to a state before intensive trawling started.

Alex Caveen

Alex Caveen, PhD Student, School of Marine Science and Technology

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