Eoghan Mortell reports on a visit to Wales by global conservation charity Oceana which is fighting to safeguard the world’s seas
Leading international business people, philanthropists, scientists and entertainment industry figures gathered in Cardiff this week for two days of talks on how to tackle worldwide overfishing and destruction of marine environments. They included Hollywood actor, Sam Waterston, the world-renowned marine scientist Professor Daniel Pauly, the former Columbian President and Secretary General of the Organisation of American States, César Gavira, entertainment industry mogul Ricardo Cisneros, and international jewellery manufacturer María Eugenia Girón.
All are board members of the global conservation charity, Oceana, which seeks to put in place science-based fisheries policies to restore the health of oceans. Currently, UK and EU waters are under stress from overfishing, habitat destruction and bycatch. This includes the dumping of millions of tonnes of dead fish back into the sea each year by industrial fishing operations.
The organisation is also campaigning to stop the expansion of offshore oil drilling and advocates the protection of important marine species often caught and killed in fishing nets such as sharks, bluefin tuna and marine mammals.
In addition to widespread support from business people, policy leaders and scientists, Washington DC-based Oceana has many active supporters from the entertainment community, including actor-producer, Ted Danson, who is an Oceana Board member, plus Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage and Morgan Freeman.
Golden Globe award winner and Oscar nominee Sam Waterston, currently starring in the new HBO TV series The Newsroom on Sky Atlantic, said he became involved in the campaign for sustainable management of the oceans after witnessing the demise of fishing communities in his native New England due to over-exploitation of stocks.
He joined fellow directors of Oceana at this week’s meetings at the invitation of Welsh environment and international development charity, The Waterloo Foundation. It is only the second time the Oceana board has met in the UK since it was established in 2001.
Professor Daniel Pauly, of the University of British Columbia, one of the world’s leading fisheries scientists, led discussions on how to implement science-based policies that can stop overfishing, reduce bycatch and protect ocean habitats.
Board members were also addressed by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, who has been leading the high-profile ‘Fish Fight’ campaign which seeks to curb practices that he maintains have led to half of all fish caught around Britain being thrown back into the sea dead. The campaign has so far gathered more than 800,000 signatures on a petition calling on the EU to rethink the Common Fisheries Policy.
Heather Stevens, Chair of The Waterloo Foundation, who is also an Oceana board member said: “Protecting the oceans is one of the most pressing environmental issues we face. Oceans are crucial to the world’s economy, health and environment, with around one billion people depending on fish as their primary source of protein. A third of the world’s fish stocks are now under severe pressure and the proportion is growing rapidly. It is essential policymakers take action to reverse this trend before it’s too late”.