Marine Protection Areas 'treated in one-sided manner'
GRIMSBY-based fishing industry leader Dr Paul Williams has hit out at the one-sided coverage of a key environmental and economic issue, highlighted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's march on Westminster.
The celebrity chef's Channel Four programme has caused a stir on the back of success with the EU-endorsed discards ban, and he is now championing a huge hike in the number of Marine Protected Areas – parcels of the sea effectively boxed off from fishing.
Dr Williams, pictured, Seafish chief executive, said: "Seafish has been very clear on its response to the latest series of Hugh's Fish Fight.
"We are supportive of the concept of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), but remain firmly opposed to the over-simplification of a complex issue for the purposes of television entertainment. Seafish has extensively reviewed the Fish Fight charter and found it to be indiscriminate and lacking in evidence. These are views that we stand by wholeheartedly."
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The move for MPAs is not a new campaign, with the industry having worked with governments, scientists and environmental groups for years on it.
"We are seeing the first stage development of that work being consulted on now and it will mean over 22 per cent of UK waters being protected, with more to come along in the future once the necessary data is acquired," said Dr Williams.
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall, and his several hundred thousand followers, are now demanding that all provisionally-nominated areas are implemented. Seafish said this presents risks to the environment it is trying to protect as well as the industries and communities dependant on them.
Makers of Hugh's Fish Fight, KEO Films, attended pan-industry meetings facilitated by Seafish, to hear about them. Dr Williams added: "It has been deeply disappointing to see the subject of MPAs treated in such a one-sided manner, especially given the input industry gave to this series, and the previous Fish Fight campaign.
"By circumnavigating the scientific advice, Hugh's Fish Fight has portrayed parts of the fishing industry in a wholly inaccurate light in order to motivate its audience into action.
"We believe these tactics may now have served only to alienate the fishing industry from a process which, in order to achieve the required environmental, social and economic goals, needs the collaboration and co-operation of all."