silent seas - Marine Conservation Society

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silent seas. Marine. Conservation. Society. MCS. Marine Conservation Society. Wolf Business Park, Alton Road. Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, HR9 5NB.

silent seas

Marine Conservation Society Overross House, Ross Park, Ross-on-Wye,Herefordshire,HR97US Tel: 01989 566017 Fax: 01989 567815 E-mail: [email protected] MCS President: HRH The Prince of Wales Registered charity no: (England & Wales): 1004005 Registered charity no (Scotland): SCO37480 Company limited by guarantee no: 2550966 Printed on Greencoat Plus Velvet which is FSC and NAPM certified and made from 80% recycled postconsumer fibre, 10% TCF (Totally Chlorine Free) virgin fibre and 10% ECF (Elemental Chlorine Free) fibre


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Planet Ocean “ I don’t think anybody can fail to have an emotional response to the oceans. It’s imperative that we continue to look after our seas.

If we do so they will continue to provide the oxygen that we breathe and food for us to eat, but perhaps more importantly they will remain a source of fascination and excitement for generations to come.

Alastair Fothergill Producer & Director, including BBC’s Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Life in the Freezer



For 25 years MCS has been a voice for the sea - for all the fascinating creatures that live beneath the waves, for our breathtaking coastal environment, for all those who want to make a sustainable livelihood from our seas, for those who feel at peace when they stare at the horizon from a boat or a clifftop, for those who love to run squealing into the freezing waves. 3

At some point in most of our lives, the sea has worked its magic on us. We need not search far to recall all the details of an unforgettable windswept beach, a seaside resort or a delicious seafood meal with family and friends. We gain so much from the sea - food, energy, wellbeing, fun - yet it seems our seas are not gaining much from us in return. Beach litter levels are on the rise, fish stocks are over exploited and vulnerable species are being squeezed out as the pressure is on to take more and more from the ocean. Only 0.0008% percent of UK seas is fully protected. The time has come for all of us to do what we can to turn the tide. This is a time for our seas.

I really believe the key thing that people should do is spend more time by, on or in the sea because that way they can begin to understand why it is so special and why marine conservation is so important. It makes the job of anyone involved in conservation that much easier because once someone has experienced how special our sea is, they will think twice about dropping litter on the beach, or flushing plastic cotton buds down the loo. Then of course, they can begin to give some thought to the fish they eat: be adventurous in their choice of fish, but make sure it is local and sustainable.

Kate Humble TV presenter and MCS Supporter

The sea belongs to all of us


a voice for our seas The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has been the voice for our seas, shores and wildlife for 25 years.

Sustainable fisheries Helping consumers to choose sustainably caught fish with distribution of over quarter of a million pocket Good Fish Guides and a highly acclaimed online resource for sustainable seafood:


MCS champions a vision of sustainable fisheries, marine life protection and clean seas and beaches. Our achievements include:

Clean seas and beaches

Marine life protection Advising the nation’s major supermarkets on sustainable seafood sourcing, resulting in the removal from sale of threatened or unsustainably caught fish.

Gaining vital protection for the basking shark under the Wildlife & Countryside Act following a 10-year campaign. Campaigning for UK and Scottish Marine Acts to allow designation of marine reserves and a more sustainable future for our seas.

Championing the call for marine reserves to set aside areas where marine life is protected from damaging activities and where fisheries can recover.

Involving over 20,000 volunteers in clearing litter from UK beaches, removing tens of thousands of tonnes of rubbish directly from habitats where it can kill wildlife due to entanglement or starvation.

Turning the tide on sewage pollution through the Good Beach Guide – a key driving force behind major improvements in bathing water quality around the UK.


Silent Seas deliberately echoes Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. In 1962 Rachel envisioned a spring where birds did not sing. Now, in 2008, the Marine Conservation Society forsees a world where extinctions at sea begin to rise and the ecosystem starts to fail.

‘Little Golden Balls’

DIY Household flood defence explained p 24

the sentinel weekend edition

An eerie silence at sea Cliff faces around the UK fall silent as seabird numbers crash Bobby Bird London

For many years experts have been warning that the UK’s seabird populations are in dire straits. But warnings have gone unheeded and the summer of 2033 is the worst since records began. At many rookeries, such as the world famous Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire the gannets and terns did not even return to breed. Alarm bells began to sound as far back as 2004 when sandeels, the primary prey items of seabirds started disappearing. At that time parent birds still visited the colonies to lay eggs but were unable to find enough sandeels to feed their chicks. Hence many chicks died before they left the nest.

Species once common around the UK are now rare. Recently scientists from the UK’s Centre for the Marine Environment have been able to show that the disap-

Silent Seas is about the great environmental threat of this century – the systematic decline in the state of our seas. Instead of seas teaming with fish and dolphins, we anticipate that without action the seas may become filled with algae and jellyfish, falling largely silent and denuded of life.

Surviving the storms

Brooklyn Beckham talks about growing up with the worlds’ best football coach in Weekend Spor t £20 Saturday 11.09.2033 Published in London and Manchester

silent seas Too many fish are being taken from the sea

Too little is being done to protect our precious marine wildlife and habitats

Too much rubbish is being thrown into the sea

In addition, human induced climate change is likely to have profound effects on our marine ecosystems. Now, more than ever, the oceans and their wildlife need our help if they are to survive. Silent Seas is a wake up call and a call for action. MCS will give a voice to everyone who, like us, believes we can and must all play a part to ensure our blue planet never falls silent or still.

With fishing pressure and marine litter at record levels

pearance of the sandeels in 2004 was related to a ‘regime shift’ in the North Sea, caused by changing climate. But a more recent threat has reduced the vulnerable populations still further. As the birds are forced to roam ever further in search of food supplies, they are vulnerable to ingesting float-

- seabirds are facing an unprecedented threat.

ing plastic or becoming entangled in it. A spokesman at the Marine Management Organisation confirmed that the amount of plastic debris floating in the sea has increased by over 500% since the early part of the century. Birds like gannets will make use of

whatever nesting material is available and in some areas this means that nests are almost wholly constructed from plastic debris. It is not uncommon for chicks to become entangled in the nest and die as they are abandoned by parent birds that cannot feed them indefinitely.


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3 £15 23 Dec 2033 / 31 Dec 203


rant After supporting a vib turies cen for ry ust ind fishing lly fina oft est the port of Low sel saw its last fishing ves yard depart for the breaker’s last Thursday.

hered The local community gat , grey in the harbour on a wet the December morning to bid can’t ‘Last Hope’ farewell. “I Pauline believe it’s all over” said er’s mb me w cre a , Henderson d here for wife. “My family has live ve always over 100 years and we’ .” ing fish been involved in


arture of kside to mark the dep a silent vigil on the doc ed . join UK oft the est in ts Low of por The community of the most important m what was once one fro t boa ing fish t las the

a long Lowestoft is the latest in ess the list of British ports to witn bours Har t. flee ir the of ise dem now that were once alive are the silent except for gulls and no ms see “It s. rist tou of chatter or our one really cares about us . way of life” says Pauline EU the Governments across uce red to king wor n bee have 0’s in an their fleets since the 199 able attempt to achieve sustain this and s ion irat asp ent managem e been

The result? The European Commission now considers that 88% of EU stocks are overfished compared with only 25% on average globally. Fish landings have declined and the size of the individual fish has reduced dramatically as well. The loss of the big fish is bad news: big fish produce many times more offspring than small ones so they are vital to sustaining healthy populations in the sea. Some types of fishing can be especially harmful. It is well known that trawls can destroy seafloor wildlife such as corals, bryozoans and sea urchins, but trawls are also unselective in what they catch. In the sea, fish frequently live as a mixed community and a single trawl can catch many different species. While some of the catch is the target species, much of the remainder may be worthless and is discarded, usually in a dead or dying condition. Despite the dwindling wild stocks our demand for fish continues to grow and one solution to this mismatch of supply and demand is to farm fish in a process know as aquaculture. Surprising though it may seem, farming fish relies on healthy, diverse and productive seas to be successful. All carnivorous fish such as salmon, and farmed crustaceans such as warm water prawn rely on wild fish to make their feed. At the moment it can take on average 3kg of wild fish to produce 1kg of farmed salmon – a net loss in ocean biomass.

The perception-changing moment for the oceans has arrived. It comes from the realisation that in a single human lifetime we have inflicted a crisis on the oceans greater than any yet caused by pollution. That crisis compares with the destruction of mammoths, bison and whales, the rape of rainforests and the pursuit of bush meat. It is caused by overfishing.

Charles Clover The End of the Line1

sustainable fisheries or end of the line? L L A H C T A C

Our fisheries were once thought to be inexhaustible. But during the last 150 years the original sail boat has been superseded by increasingly high tech fishing practices which allow us to fish more efficiently, in deeper and previously inaccessible waters, for longer periods of time and increasingly farther afield.


When Stanhope Forbes painted ‘A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach’ in 1885 he accurately captured the everyday lives of the local community. His painting shows that the fishing boats of the time are sail powered, and that large and immediately recognisable fish such as cod, halibut and common skate could be caught by these vessels working relatively close inshore.

In 2008, only 8 stocks out of a total of 47 around the British Isles are known to be in a healthy state.2

Many of these species are now comparative rarities, with Atlantic halibut and common skate both listed as endangered species.

Since the time of the sailboats, the fishing industry has undergone a continuous process of technological advancement. Historically much of this technology has been developed to improve catches but with little consideration of environmental impact. The improvements have, over the years, allowed fishing to take place more efficiently and in ever more remote areas. However, the geographical expansion has masked the depletion of once fertile fishing grounds close to our coasts.

The average fishing boat of today is estimated to be 50 to 200 times more effective than the fishing boats of Stanhope Forbes’ day.3

‘A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach’, 1885 By Stanhope A. Forbes RA (1857-1947) Collection: Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery Photo: © Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery



Big fish produce many times more offspring than small ones so they are vital to sustaining healthy populations in the sea. There is little chance of recovery while most fish get taken before they have had a chance to reproduce.

Over time, intensive fishing has reduced the numbers of big, old, fat fish. What would in 1900 have been almost too small to bother with is now all that is on offer.


North Sea cod have begun to spawn at an earlier age in response to pressure from fishing.4 The biomass of cod in the North Sea has fallen from over 250,000 tons in 1970 to just 37,000 tons in 2007.5

Professor Callum Roberts University of York

The loss of the big fish is bad news for the survival of fish in the wild.

A hundred years ago, a large plaice was a grand beast. A fish had to be 50 to 60 cm long and weigh 1.5 to 2kg to be considered big. Today plaice fillets are sold as ‘large’ when they weigh just 125 grams and come from fish less than 34 cm long. Fish this size are immature and have never had a chance to breed.


Trawls scrape and plough the seafloor, and in so doing they damage seafloor wildlife. Industrial trawling has been implicated in approximately 140,000km2 of damage over the entire North Sea.7

The way we catch fish can kill far more fish than we actually use. Some fishing gears, such as trawls that are dragged over the seafloor, are not very selective in what they catch. The catch often includes fish for which the boat has no quota, or fish that are too small to land legally. These dead or dying fish are wastefully discarded back into the sea.


Between 5 and 65% of marine invertebrates living in or on the sediment perish when they are run over by a trawl.8 It has been estimated that for every kilogramme of North Sea sole caught by beam trawl, up to 14kg of other seabed animals are killed.9 Undamaged seafloor communities provide food and shelter for fish and are therefore essential to the future viability of the fishery.

The estimated cost, in terms of future catch, of discarding unwanted fish in the UK is over 40% of the total annual landed value of the fishery.6


There is a rising global demand for fish, but traditional capture fisheries have reached their maximum production levels.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that by 2030 an additional 37 million tonnes of fish per year will be needed to maintain current levels of fish consumption for an expanded world population.10 Fish farming - known as aquaculture - represents one way to fill the gap.





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Not enough fish in the sea

FRESH FISH are changing hands for huge sums of money and seafood has become something that only the rich can afford. From supermarkets to fish and chip shops there’s just not enough to go round!


Seafood is a traditional part of the Great British Diet. But some of the nation’s favourites are off the menu. Experts have been warning of a seafood crash for decades and now that it’s come some say we are powerless to do anything about it. Steven Barnes of fish monitoring agency FishEye said: “This is a complete disaster and there is absolutely nothing recovery is almost impossible. anyone can do about it.” It has become extremely It seems that once the number of difficult for a fisherman to make fish reaches a critically low level, a living at sea. A fe

It currently takes an average of 3kg of wild caught fish to produce 1kg of farmed salmon.

Today, 45% of all fish consumed by humans - 48 million tonnes in all - is raised on farms.10 Strange though it may seem, the successful farming of species such as salmon and cod depends on healthy marine ecosystems. This is because most species of farmed fish are carnivorous, and require a proportion of wild caught fish in their diet in order to remain healthy.

18 struggle on but with such slim pickings it is barely worth their while.

British fishing fleet was competing with the best in Europe, but now it is a shadow of

fishing for solutions Involving people in our fight for ocean recovery has been at the core of MCS success throughout its 25-year journey and continues to be a key driver for change. Silent Seas is a call for action from Government, industry and individuals.

MCS will give a voice to everyone who like us, believes we can and must all play a part in protecting fish stocks, livelihoods and marine life to achieve sustainable fisheries.

MCS calls on Governments to:

MCS calls on everyone to:

Introduce an ecosystem based approach to fisheries management which follows the precautionary principle, and move away from single-species based fisheries management. Shift away from current quota-based methods of fisheries management and towards effort-based schemes (e.g. restrictions on licences, days at sea, fishing gear types and size, engine power), particularly for mixed species and demersal fisheries. Extend the use of spatial and temporal closures to protect biologically important areas such as spawning and nursery grounds and delicate seafloor habitats. Fund research and provide incentives for selective fishing practices to reduce habitat damage and capture of non target species. Make progressive changes in fisheries legislation towards a ban on discarding of commercial species of fish and shellfish.


MCS calls on industry to: Embrace development and application of new fishing practices that reduce environmental damage and support recovery of fish stocks and productivity. Adopt seafood sourcing policies in the retail and catering sector that avoid fish and shellfish from vulnerable, depleted or unmanaged stocks, and avoid capture methods that result in significant bycatch or damage to marine habitats. Adopt sustainable fish-farming practices that minimise damage to local wildlife, habitats and landscapes from pollution or poor siting; utilise the best sustainable feed options available; and protect wild salmonid stocks from disease and escapes associated with farmed fish.

Make environmentally sustainable choices when buying fish and shellfish – avoiding those that are under pressure in favour of those from healthy well-managed stocks, caught using the most selective methods, or farmed to high environmental and sustainable standards.

MCS will inform

retailers, restaurateurs and consumers on the sustainability of wild caught fish, farmed fish and shellfish and promote the most environmentally friendly seafood choices. Sustainable seafood guidance will be made freely available both online at and in the Pocket Good Fish Guide with lists of ‘fish to eat’ and ‘fish to avoid’.

MCS will involve

and liase with the retail, fishing and aquaculture industries to promote fisheries and fish farms that adopt more sustainable practices, through www. and the Sustainable Seafood Directory.

MCS will influence

Government and fisheries managers to take the bold steps needed to protect vulnerable commercial and recreational stocks from over-fishing and protect nontarget species and habitats from damage.