Sunday, December 10, 2017

Buying fish in the UK has become an added fee for some organizations

نتيجة بحث الصور عن ‪fish in the UK‬‏

It's a stealth tax about which the government has kept very quiet. When you hear the details, you will know why. I doubt whether one in a thousand people is aware that it exists. Every time you buy fish in the UK, you pay a fee to support an organisation which opposes campaigns to protect fish stocks and marine ecosystems.

Seafish – its full name is the Seafish Industry Authority – says two things about itself: it "represents the UK seafood industry" and it's a "government body". You might wonder how it could be both, especially when it answers to a government that boasts about its free-market credentials. Why is an industry lobby group sponsored by the Westminster government (as well as the UK's three other national governments) and funded by a compulsory consumption tax?

The question becomes more pressing when you see what it stands for. It lists the first of its aims as to "reinforce positive messages about the UK seafood industry and refute, where applicable, any negative messages about the UK seafood industry." The second aim is to "encourage the consumption of seafood." Given that stocks of fish and shellfish all over the world are grossly overexploited, encouraging more consumption surely should be the last thing we should be paying for. Sorry, I mean the second last. The last thing we should be paying for is a public relations campaign on behalf of a destructive industry – namely objective one.

These two aims are combined in its latest campaign: to encourage people to keep eating cod from the North Sea. The Marine Conservation Society is advising people not to eat fish from this stock, as they remain at perilously low levels. While the stocks have begun to recover a little, rampant overfishing has ensured that cod populations in the North Sea are still only a quarter of the size of those in the 1970s, which had already been highly depleted by a century of mechanised fishing.

The Marine Conservation Society lists North Sea cod in category five: the lowest of its sustainability ratings. But Seafish seems to have heeded the instruction (if instruction it was) to "get rid of all the green crap". Its press release on this issue is headlined "Seafish advises consumers to continue buying cod with a clear conscience". Here's what it said:

"Seafish argues that consumers can buy North Sea cod with confidence, secure in the knowledge that it has been sourced from well-managed fisheries using methods and practices that fall within the set parameters of the cod recovery plan."

That "clear conscience" formulation in the headline jumped out at me, because the same words are used in the frequently asked questions page on its website, but in the opposite context. Here's what it says:

"Cod stocks in UK waters are depleted and are under strict management measures to ensure that the stock recovers. However, more than 95% of the cod we eat in this country comes from sustainable stocks in Iceland and the Barents Sea so you can eat cod with a clear conscience."

So one minute Seafish is telling us we can eat cod with a clear conscience because it doesn't come from the North Sea; the next minute it is telling us that we can eat cod with a clear conscience because it does come from the North Sea. The message seems to be: "to hell with the state of the stocks and to hell with your conscience. Just eat cod."

But that's not the end of it. It turns out that Seafish, at the invitation of the Marine Conservation Society – which tries hard to get the industry to support its efforts – chaired the society's industry review group, whose purpose is to allow fishermen to comment on the way it rates the different fish stocks.

At no point during the meetings of this group did Seafish challenge the society's category five rating or raise any objections to its assessment of North Sea cod stocks.

Questioned on this issue by the website, a Seafish executive admitted: "That's a fair point and is certainly something that doesn't look great – as if it's us throwing our toys out of the pram." Yes, that is just how it looks.

It was Seafish that led the campaign against the Fish Fight, the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall-led campaign which sought to hold the government to its promise of 127 meaningful marine conservation zones, rather than the 27 useless paper parks to which this pledge has been reduced.

Seafish claimed that it "has extensively reviewed the Fish Fight charter and found it to be indiscriminate and lacking in evidence … By circumnavigating the scientific advice published, Hugh's Fish Fight has portrayed parts of the fishing industry in a wholly inaccurate light in order to motivate its audience into action." The fisheries scientists with whom Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall worked would doubtless disagree.

A couple of weeks ago, Seafish won the Chartered Institute of Public Relations silver award for its campaign to prevent Fearnley-Whittingstall and the Fish Fight campaign from succeeding. These awards reflect a 

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