Championing coastal waters and communities

Posted by Nina Schrank — 16 July 2014 at 2:48pm - Comments
Cornish fisherman with his catch of the day
All rights reserved. Credit: David Sandison/Greenpeace
A Sennen Cove fisherman with his catch of the day

While my colleagues have been doing big, bold and brash things like confronting oil drilling in the Arctic and taking on Tescos over their slipped commitments on sustainable tuna, I was reading reports by the European Commission and poring over the minute details of European Regulation. Doesn’t sound very Greenpeace, does it?

Well actually it is – not a lot of people know we do this kind of work, but this is the nitty gritty policy stuff that allows us to get our noses right up to the coal face of politics in Brussels and the UK. And this time we’ve been working out what the UK government needs to do next following our big European campaign to reform the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. This policy has been dominated by the interests of big fishing businesses for decades, and our campaign pushed for the kind of reform that would benefit small scale, sustainable fishermen from all over Europe and bring fish stocks back to sustainable levels. 

The resulting policy isn’t perfect, but it’s the kind of sweeping, far reaching reform that we campaigned for, and the potential is huge. The trick though is how its implemented here in the UK - it won’t mean anything unless the UK government turn it into reality.  They have the tools, and the power, to transform the lives of sustainable fishermen, bring huge socio-economic benefit to our coastal communities, and safeguard the marine environment all around the shores of the UK. Our seas are some of the most species rich in Europe – basking sharks, seahorses, whales, dolphins and a myriad of feeding seabirds.

And so, over the last few months, we’ve worked with Nutfa, the representative body for small scale fishermen, to come up with with a guide to exactly what the government needs to do next. The resulting action plan is called ‘Championing Coastal waters and Communities.’

We’ve been working in alliance with Nutfa and other coastal, low-impact fishermen since 2012, and I’m proud to be on their side. They’re the guys doing the right thing – fishing in the right way, and they should be rewarded and prioritised, not penalised. They make up 77% of the fleet, yet only get 4% of the quota. This needs to change if we have any hope of reversing the degradtaion of our coastal seas and coastal communities.

I wonder if when you’re tucking in to your line caught mackerel (and good on you, by the way), you ever think about the guy who caught that fish, and how he may be worrying about feeding his family that evening, or selling his house to pay the bills. This has been the reality for many of the fishermen I’ve met over the last few years. The laws, that so desperately need changing, affect these people every day of their lives.

On Monday 14th July we launched our new plan to a room full of politicians, fishermen, NGOs and sustainable fish businesses. We’re calling for every coastal MP, across every political party to support this plan. Monday night was a good start – a bunch of MPs from Hastings to Fleetwood, Bexhill to Lowestoft, pledged to ‘be a coastal champion’ and take this issue to the heart of their parties.

You played a huge part in reforming those European laws, and I wanted to let you know this is still a major part of our work here in the UK and throughout Europe. We’re not the only ones working on this, either. Together we’ll be finishing this, and taking it right up to the General Election next May. We might need your help further down the line, I’ll keep you posted.


Nina Schrank is an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK

Follow Greenpeace UK