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Young geographers learn about marine conservation

January 4th, 2019

‘The impact of fishing on our seas and oceans’ was the focus of a fascinating talk by the Marine Conservation Society to members of Monmouth School for Girls’ Geographical Society recently.

Over 35 pupils from Year 7 – 13 attended the talk, presented by UK fishing research specialist Debbie Crockard, during which pupils were also posed the question; does it matter what type of fish you eat?

The opening part of the talk showed pupils how important seas and oceans are to ecosystems and the health of the planet. The need to protect this amazing biodiversity was presented – as in many areas there is an imbalance. Too many fish/shellfish are being taken through intensive fishing.

Debbie was careful to give a balanced view and stressed the importance of fishing to global diets and livelihoods, with over billion people depending directly on seas and oceans for their day to day needs.

Pupils were then posed the question, so what is the solution to intensive fishing? Stopping fishing is not the solution, so we need to make fishing better. The merits of new fishing gear/net design were presented, which can target different sizes of fish and different species.

Head of Geography at Monmouth School for Girls, Mr. Meek, commented: “Information on the importance of what types of fish we should be catching and how many was also given. UK waters are blessed with 150 different marine species, many of them fished and sold to Europe and the world, but not eaten in the UK.

“We are very conservative in our fish consumption focusing mainly on five species: cod, haddock, salmon, prawns and tuna. As a nation we need to be more adventurous with the fish we eat, over reliance on a small number of species is not sustainable.”

Debbie concluded by emphasising the need for fish stocks to be able to recover, allowing healthy ecosystems to exist. Education is key, not only in schools but also in supermarkets, and pupils were encouraged to look out for the sustainable seafood symbol on packaging. Hake or Coley and chips may need to become the norm if we are to have healthy seas and oceans and sustainable fisheries.

Plenty of questions came from the audience concerning Debbie’s career and research. Pupils were fascinated to hear about Debbie’s discovery of a new marine species, what was the feeling like? They were also very interested to hear about the current debates around UK fishing policy with Brexit looming. The following day Debbie was due to travel to Westminster to advise a parliamentary panel on future UK fishing policy.

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