- James Blunt is best known as a singer, but he’s also an outspoken advocate for ocean conservation.
- Business Insider asked him to be our editor for a day, and he assigned a package of stories on the crisis of sea pollution.
- In this exclusive editorial, James talks about his passion for sustainable fishing and why he is a spokesperson for the Blue Marine Foundation.
I was delighted to be asked to become Business Insider’s “editor for a day” for an underappreciated cause.
Over the past year, I’ve been amazed at how the BBC’s Blue Planet II has led millions of people and thousands of companies to consider the impact of plastic in our oceans. But Blue Planet II also raised a second issue – the need for a “Blue Belt” that protects our oceans, the same way green belts protect forests and parklands – a cause backed by the amazing Blue Marine Foundation.
As a musician, I once set out on a shaky inflatable to cross an ocean of people, but today our oceans carry us in our billions every day. We think of the oceans as our store cupboard, yet many current methods of fishing are exhaustive and destructive and 90% of the world’s fish stocks are now listed as being fully exploited, over-exploited, or depleted.
In 2019, we need to press for a sea change in how we think about the seas; promoting more sustainable fishing and setting aside marine reserves that preserve the abundance of the natural resources we’ve learned to rely upon.
If you need convincing, read some of the great coverage of the issue in the accompanying articles, written with the help of the diligent Business Insider team.
That’s why I am keen to support Blue Marine Foundation’s aims to put 10% of the world’s oceans under protection by next year and 30% by 2030.
I had a conversation just before Christmas with Julian Dunkerton, the founder of the SuperDry clothing line, who has donated £1 million ($1.3 million) to the Blue Marine Foundation.
He told me about the fate of Lyme Bay in the UK, where a ban on bottom-towed fishing (where trawlers drag the bottom of the ocean, destroying everything as they catch fish was implemented in 2008. Since then, local fisherman have signed up to a sustainable conservation code, brokered by Blue Marine Foundation, which gave them freezers to keep their catch fresh and ensures higher prices at market for their fully traceable fish. The result has been an increase in the catch from Lyme Bay along with a recovery of its flora and fauna.
He says the town is recovering too. Tourists are turned away by giant industrial fishing ports, but they flock to fishing villages with small boats, scallop divers and lobstermen. So hotels and restaurants are returning to Lyme Bay, too.
“The smaller fisherman, a lobster fisherman, a scallop diver, a recreational fisherman, a bass fisherman, they’re all thriving actually, which is very interesting. We’re not just talking about turning the stocks around. Two-and-a-half-times the amount of lobsters are caught now compared to 10 years ago. Scallops are up, lobsters are up, flatfish are up. The species are up,” Julian told me. “It’s about giving life back to those communities. Scallop divers are earning five, six hundred pounds per day [about $800]. That is actually quite good. How many people could that one reservation actually sustain? We’ve already had an 11% increase in employment by the fishing industry in Lyme Bay … You’re then talking about restaurants, hotels, a rebirth of an area that essentially has been dying, I suspect, for 30 to 40 years since the industrialisation of fishing.”
I recently sat down with Jim Edwards, Business Insider’s UK editor-in-chief, to talk about why ocean conservation and management is so important. Watch the video below:
James Blunt: 90% of the larger fish in the ocean are gone. We’ve taken them through overfishing, unsustainable overfishing.
Jim Edwards: You’re known as a singer obviously, and a surprisingly dangerous and funny presence on Twitter. But you’re less well known for your interest in fish, how did you first become interested in ocean conservation?
James Blunt: My father was based in Cyprus, he was in the army and so I grew up on and in the Mediterranean. I live in Ibiza now and have done for 14 years and I call it my home, and as such I can really see the changes that have happened there over my lifetime. I think anyone who goes on holiday in the Mediterranean will ask the same question as me when you jump in the water, which is where are the fish? I mean there are so few now compared to when I was a child I think people really recognise that plastics are a problem, we go into our supermarkets now and I hope that we’re all more aware that by purchasing goods covered in plastics it will end up with them being in the ocean. But I think people have realised that is just the tip of the iceberg of the problem. The problem is not just plastics, but climate and also our huge amount of overfishing in an unsustainable manner. Jim Edwards: What is the single worst thing that’s happening in the sea right now?
James Blunt: I don’t think you have to look very far, in Dogger Bank which you will have heard about from the weather reports. Dogger Bank is where we’re supposed to have one of Europe’s largest marine conservation areas and instead what’s going on there is this remarkable thing, this terrible thing called pulse fishing, where they literally send a pulse down into the seabed. In doing so that snaps the spines of larger fish, kills up to a quarter of the young cod and indiscriminately kills all marine life on the seabed, in the mud and is destroying an ecosystem.
Jim Edwards: So they’re literally just electrocuting the sea?
James Blunt: Absolutely and it sounds as bad as it is.
Jim Edwards: So who’s at fault for all this, who’s doing this type of fishing?
James Blunt: Well I think we’re not talking about small fishing boats in the English Channel, we’re talking about large-scale industrial fishing which is literally going with enormous great nets and taking everything they can out of the ocean.
Jim Edwards: So shouldn’t we just eat less fish?
James Blunt: Well I think if we continue to in the way that we have there simply won’t be any fish at the end of it but I think the answer for us is to question where our fish is coming from and ask, is it from sustainable sources, is it locally-sourced?
Jim Edwards: So, who’s standing in the way of this?
James Blunt: I don’t think anyone’s standing in the way of it, it’s just about action or inaction. Sometimes we can be focused on other things we just need to focus our minds and focus our pressure on ourselves, on business, on governments to act on this.
Video produced by Charlie Floyd
This article is part of a collaboration with James Blunt and the marine conservation charity Blue Marine Foundation. The charity is dedicated to creating marine reserves and establishing sustainable models of fishing, with a mission to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. To find out more visit www.bluemarinefoundation.com