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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Oceans summit tackles sea stocks
Scottish shores
The summit highlighted the condition of the UK's seas
A campaign to save Britain's marine life has been launched at a summit in Edinburgh - amid concerns that North Sea cod stocks face collapse.

Fishermen and conservationists are lobbying for a more co-ordinated oceans policy.

The WWF's Oceans Recovery Summit - which has been endorsed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Prince Charles, among others - was held at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

Cod stocks are under threat
It heard warnings from fishermen and environmentalists who believe that more effective action is needed to save wildlife in the seas around Britain.

Cod stocks in the North Sea are at their lowest ever level, despite severe fishing restrictions agreed by the European Union last year.

Pollution and over-fishing are being blamed for the continued destruction of marine life.

The government is being urged to scrap the current 'piecemeal' approach to managing the seas.

Delegates at the summit said an Oceans Act was the only way of ending the "conflicting" domestic and European policies which were damaging the ocean environment.

The majority of fishermen are genuinely concerned about securing a sustainable ecosystem and I am sure they will support our moves to protect the marine environment

Rhona Brankin
Scottish Fisheries Minister Rhona Brankin was among those who addressed the event.

She conceded that the common fisheries policy was not working and said the Scottish Executive was working with Westminster and Brussels to develop better legislation for the seas.

Ms Brankin said the executive was committed to making the seas sustainable.

"We recognise there are a very serious issues of management and environmental impact and we intend to address these through our consultation on a long-term strategic framework," she said.

"The European Commission has admitted that its common fisheries policy has not achieved many of its aims and highlighted the need for a balance between fleet capacity and available resources.

Rhona Brankin
Rhona Brankin addressed the event
"In March I announced a 25m decommissioning scheme, the biggest single investment ever aimed at restricting the Scottish fishing fleet.

"We welcome the WWF's recognition of this significant package.

"I believe that the majority of fishermen are genuinely concerned about securing a sustainable ecosystem and I am sure they will support our moves to protect the marine environment."

The event was attended by representatives from the corporate sector, national and local governments, scientists, academics and industry bodies.

Delegates were invited to sign the Edinburgh Declaration, which calls for a united approach to managing the seas.

Different regulations

WWF chief executive Robert Napier said: "Our agenda is for a healthy marine environment, both in the interests of nature and in the interests of people.

"What we are specifically calling for is an Oceans Act."

He said that the hundreds of different regulations covering the seas and coastlines were "all over the place".

"There are many, many government departments involved in Edinburgh, London and Brussels who are working in conflict.

Our oceans respect no political boundaries

Robert Napier
"What we are calling for, both at the Westminster level and the devolved level, is a holistic legal framework.

"Our oceans respect no political boundaries. Radioactive pollution off the Cumbrian coast affects the seas around the north of Scotland."

An internet petition launched by the environmental group demanding immediate action to protect the UK's seas and marine wildlife gathered more than 13,000 signatures.

The Scottish Parliament will debate a motion supporting the summit on Thursday, and there is also to be an early day motion in the House of Commons in support of the declaration.

Professor of Marine and Coastal Policy Laurence Mee
from the University of London
Robert Napier, WWF UK chief executive
"It's important to have a common agenda and understanding"
See also:

31 Aug 01 | Scotland
Fishing pay-off scheme opens
30 Apr 01 | Scotland
Fishing restrictions to end
15 Mar 01 | Scotland
Clash during second fish debate
13 Mar 01 | Scotland
Fishermen make 'burning' protest
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