The End of the Line

Posted: 24 June 2004

Author: Charles Clover
Ebury Press, London, 2004, £14.99 hardback

The demand for fish by an increasingly health and fashion conscious public is ever growing, while the battle over the world's waters between hi-tech trawlers, local fishermen and environmentalists rages on. But while the politicians fight it out an environmental catastrophe is at hand, as Charles Clover makes brilliantly clear.

Cover of End of the Line by Charles Clover
Cover of End of the Line by Charles Clover
Clover an award-winning environmentalist looks at the depletion of sea bass in the English Channel at the hands of French and Spanish trawlers and the decline of once great fishing ports like Lowestoft, Hull and Grimsby. He visits the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, where bluefin tuna are auctioned at vast expense irrespective of their near extinct status; and Vigo, Spain, the largest port in the world where swordfish weighing anything from 44 to 241 kilos cover the floor.

He also travelled to Dakar, Senegal, where the EU pays the government £42 million a year for access to its waters, thus robbing the local fishermen in their ancient pirogues of a livelihood. He examines the new technology that has been developed internationally to make large catches certain but with devastating effects on fish stocks and looks back at the 20th century debate between scientists, politicians and fishermen about what sustainable fishing means - and why it is so much harder to achieve than scientists and politicians expected. He analyses the contents of the British lunchtime staple, a can of tuna, an investigates the cookery books and kitchens of some of our best known chefs.

More hopefully, Charles Clover talks to people trying to stop pirate fishing for tuna and Patagonian toothfish in the Atlantic and the Southern Ocean. He describes how, in New Zealand, a marine reserve set up on the north island in 1975 has seen the local waters transformed. The sea bed is host to lace corals, sponges and anemones, the waters abundant with snapper, blue cod and butterfly perch, while families picnic on shore and snorkel to their hearts' content.

In Iceland, cod stocks have been restored by actively involving the local fishermen in the marshalling of its waters while such is the vigilance in Alaska that its fisheries are some of only a few in the world to have been approved by the Marine Stewardship Council.

With such success stories, Charles Clover proves that if we act now the threat of marine disaster can be averted.