The sea is for life, not just for holidays
Good news: North Sea cod will soon be back on the menu. Stocks have recovered sufficiently from chronic overfishing and the Marine Stewardship Council is to award it a blue label badge of sustainability. This comes as defra Secretary Michael Gove, son of an Aberdonian fish merchant, signals his intention to ‘take back control’ of our waters by withdrawing Britain from the London Fisheries Convention of 1964, which predated our entry to the EU with its disastrous Common Fisheries Policy.
We are, in Churchillian parlance, an ‘island race’, inhabiting, to quote Shakespeare, a ‘precious stone set in the silver sea’. We take pride in the Royal Navy, smaller now, but equipped with new aircraft carriers; London is the world centre for maritime law and insurance; many goods arrive by ship. We are, increasingly, relying on the sea for water and power and the sight of it makes us feel better. Being surrounded by sea is part of our national identity.
However, we don’t always treat it well. on page 54, John Wright describes the surprising wealth of food that can be harvested from rock pools. That they’re so full of life is testament to the improved quality of British waters—a consequence of the EU’S insistence on better standards.
Unfortunately, however, the mollusc population often has to cohabit with an ever-increasing tide of rubbish. The problem isn’t unique to Britain—recently, the beaches of tiny, uninhabited Henderson Island in the Pacific were found to be polluted with 38 million pieces of plastic— but it affects us disproportionately because of our long coastline.
In the USA, a nine-year-old boy launched the Be Straw Free campaign after he saw footage of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose: the object is to persuade consumers to refuse the straws that are routinely added to soft drinks served in restaurants. A tax of 5p on carrier bags has led to dramatic reductions in their use, so let’s have deposits on bottles to encourage their return and reuse. Internet shoppers should rebel against the swathes of packaging.
We have the National Trust’s operation Neptune from the 1960s to thank for saving our shores from the hideous overdevelopment seen in some Mediterranean countries, but now, surely, we need a similar campaign for beautiful but rundown seaside towns and villages, whose communities are among the most deprived in the land. We’ll always be surrounded by sea, but that doesn’t mean we should take it for granted.
‘Being surrounded by sea is part of our national identity, but we don’t always treat it well