VEGA News Item

VEGA Responds to DEFRA consultation on a Marine Bill - 11/06/2007
Congratulations are due to DEFRA for launching a Bill and embarking on a Sea of Change
Re: Consultation on a Marine Bill White Paper, A Sea Change

Congratulations are due to DEFRA for launching a Bill and embarking on a Sea of Change.

As respect for the environment has belatedly been aroused for the terrestrial concerns over neglect of interactions and changes in the climate of meteorological significance as well as in admiration of "nature" - animal, vegetable, and mineral - similar diversity and common factors deserve, even more belatedly, attention to marine life, ecology, and development.

In the context of a proposed Bill and possible formation of a Ministry with comprehensive powers and devolvements, we draw attention to the following factors.

1. Impounded waters, such as Slapton Ley, as well as lakes created for farming with seawater or for leisure or business purposes (eg swimming, locks, or marinas) or as part of power-generating systems, eg from tidal flows, wind currents, and wave movements, combine matters of land and sea that need well-prepared integration.

2. Movements of fish and shipping in the course of food production, transport, harborage etc, as well as factors of climate change (which may apply to the Gulf Stream, and El Nino and cosmic influences), involve international collaboration, enforcement and control. Endangered species (such as whales) and the broader issues of ecology must command attention. Run-offs from farming land causing "plumes" of effluents from the mouths of estuaries debouching into the sea raise issues common to the husbandry of land and sea. Toxic blooms and "red tides" may owe their origins to such factors and others. Industrial mineral waste, soil erosion on coasts and dredging and "harvesting" of building materials raise similar challenges.

3. The fisheries industry must receive much more attention in the implications of overfishing, by-catches, and disposal of waste materials. Just as farm animals are gaining greater and overdue respect in terms of animal welfare and dignity, so fish are being accorded with considerations of their sentience and our corresponding duties of sympathy and care. Plundering the animal kingdom can give way to enterprise in the growing industry of cultivating and harvesting wracks ("seaweeds") as sources and ingredients of foods and in manufacturing. The present fishing industry is dominated by crude and intensified relics of hunting for food, accompanied by a toll of avoidable risks for the hunters and for the life in coastal communities.

4. Traffic control of shipping and pleasure craft around our shores and in our estuaries needs more international agreement on the licensing and surveillance of the vessels and of ballasting, discharges, emergencies, leakages, rescues in accidents, and wreckage. Buoyage, pilotage, signalling, and customs surveillance, as well as coastguarding, must be brought up to standards of airport controls of dangers and nuisances. Transmissions of exotic pestilences, e.g. on hulls or in ballast, must be surveyed routinely and the interest of conservation, maritime leisure, and recreation must be honoured. Charting of wrecks and hazards to navigation (which might include artificial reefs sunk for the enjoyment of fish and divers) must be kept up to date.

5. Mining for natural gas and for some minerals won from galleries under the seabed are industries with common interests in maritime and terrestrial terms. Exploration of wrecks and treasure and the ecology of seabed are activities that would be comprehended in a Marine Bill. Like the running of the lifeboat service they are traditional concerns that could be translated with little trouble into a comprehensive Bill. Overhaul might be necessary to cover the latest developments in air-sea rescue.

Farming of fish in enclosures in lochs and especially of species with movements in which they would naturally navigate rivers, seas, and oceans calls for joined up thinking and action to eliminate by legal processes the severe disruption of innate habit such processes entail. Who's laws embrace the salmon and its life, space, and existence? Or will the salmon's rich existence in its elements be impoverished on the grounds of the consumers' demand for cheap, all-seasons fish and the need to create a freakish existence that exceeds the capacity of a single Act to comprehend?

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