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Important Fish Fight update from Hugh

It’s a pleasure for me, as it should be for all Fish Fighters, to see the two main parties vying with each other to be the best and the boldest in protecting our marine environment.

Dear Fish Fighters and River Cottage Supporters,

It’s a pleasure for me, as it should be for all Fish Fighters, to see the two main parties, and indeed our two Prime Ministerial candidates, vying with each other to be the best and the boldest in protecting our marine environment, both here at home and in the UK Overseas territories.

You could say it’s been a good week for fish. Or at least it will turn out that way, if the next government acts on these promises. In the Tory manifesto Cameron went even further than previously promised, mentioning Ascension Island as well as Pitcairn, and suggesting that in fact any and all of the UK Overseas Territories could be considered for protected status for their surrounding seas, providing their residents were open to the idea.

Today, in a declaration reported in the Independent newspaper, Labour have more than matched the Tories’ promise. In terms of committing to the protection of particular ocean territories, they have seen them and raised them one: they say that a proposal to protect the seas around South Sandwich and South Georgia will also be taken forward.

I visited these amazing islands, to north of the Antarctic peninsula, in 2013, as part of the second series of Fish Fight.

It was the beginning of our campaign, shared with marine conservation NGOs including Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society and RSPB, for greater protection for this pristine ocean wilderness. In particular, we want to see more rigorous control of the Krill fishing industry, which continues to remove thousands of tonnes of this bedrock ocean protein, on which the entire antarctic ecosystem largely depends. So hearing that a Labour government will propose fully protected status for this huge swathe of the South Atlantic is an incredibly exciting development.

Labour set the agenda for Marine Conservation when they were last in office, declaring a Marine Reserve in the UK overseas territory of Chagos, and if they can add Pitcairn, Ascension Island, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands to that, then collectively they will have created a marine safe haven larger than any other nation has managed, and one which will have genuine significance in the whole ocean biosphere.

I’m also delighted their commitment includes extending the network of Marine Conservation Zones around the coast here in the UK. Our Fish Fight campaign brought the importance of marine conservation to the attention of the British public, and was supported by 875,000 signatures. If elected, Labour have a great chance to recognise that amazing call to action, and to finish the job they started with the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. That means making sure those MCZs not only include full protection of key marine habitats, but also help build fish stocks to safeguard the future of our fishing industry and our coastal communities.

There’s no doubt that these commitments from both parties are due in large part to the amazing public support for Fish Fight and for the Great British Oceans Campaign .

I hope some of the 850,000 of you who signed our petition will get to read this, and realise just how much difference the voice of the people can make, when it rises up and calls loudly for the protection of our planets amazing resources.

Many thanks for your continued and vital support - it’s wonderful to see that it’s still making waves!


Pictures show me in Antartica and Ed and Dave, fighting to save our seas