31 August 2003

Independent | Ban fishing in third of all seas, scientists say:
All fishing should be banned in a third of the world's oceans to reverse a catastrophic decline in fish stocks such as cod and tuna, British scientists have warned.

In a new study, they recommend that large areas of ocean, including the North Sea, around the Falklands, and the Gulf of California, should be made into legally protected marine reserves, policed by naval patrols and satellites.

The dramatic proposal - expected to be endorsed by an international conference on wildlife reserves next month - follows mounting alarm about the worldwide collapse of fish, dolphin, whale and turtle populations, and the destruction of ancient coral reefs.

Professor Callum Roberts, a marine biologist at York University and co-author of the study, said the world's oceans were now in crisis. 'We've now reached the terrible and unstable state where we're fishing species so heavily that there are virtually no reproductive fish around,' he said.

Last Thursday, the scale of that crisis was underlined when scientists with the Scottish Fisheries Research Service warned that North Sea cod stocks, now down to about 40,000 tonnes, were 'critical' and called for fishing to be heavily restricted.

That day, Australian and South African fishery protection vessels apprehended a Uruguayan trawler after a three-week chase, for illegally catching the endangered Patagonian toothfish. Known as 'white gold', the fish was thought to be worth $2m (�1.4m) [AU$3.5m] on the black market.

Maybe we need a new breed of chloroneocon who could get all hairy-chested over the urgent need to defend primacy over fishery stocks.

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