Fish – The Perfect Protein

The Perfect Protein: The Fish Lover’s Guide to Saving the Oceans and Feeding the World by Andy Sharpless, Suzannah Evans

 It’s rare that I sit down and read a book of 270 pages in just over one sitting. It’s even more remarkable that former President Bill Clinton takes time out to write a compelling forward to a book on fisheries.  But, this book provides a clear, compelling and readable case for protecting our Oceans and how to do it.

 Why Protect Our Oceans

 Andy Sharpless, Oceana’s CEO, gives two good reasons why we should be interested in growing fish stocks.

 Growing Populations Need Protein

First, the world’s population of 7 billion today is likely to grow to 9 billion by 2050. We will need more a lot lore protein to feed the 2 billion people.

We can feed them healthy wild seafood – and there is no reason why our oceans would not sustain levels needed – or we will have to find that protein from meat.

 Pigs & Cows Are Not The Alternative

Now, we can feed people from pigs, cows, or other forms of meat. I don’t eat meat but I accept that a lot of people do and will continue to do so. But it’s clear that we don’t have enough land to grow the soy and corn that is used to feed the pigs and corn. And, we won’t have enough land and clean water to grow more crops to feed the pigs and cows, let alone treat the waste.

As Sharpless puts it “More than half of the world’s crop yields—mainly corn, rice, wheat, and soybeans—are used to feed livestock, not people. And most of the meat from the livestock is sold to people.”

  How To Feed The World?

Secondly, wild caught fish could easily be a healthy and sustainable resource that could be part of billions of peoples main source of animal protein.

 Short Term Pain?

 Returning fish stocks is not going be painless. But, the long-term demise of fish stocks and the jobs they support has been a painful in many countries.

For too long, we have been drawing down from the principal in the bank account.  The remarkable thing about fish,is that if we let them re-build for a few years, we can start living off the interest of the principal and not the principal. Indeed, it could be feasible that we started living off the interest from the interest of the principle.

And, that turn around can be as short as 5 to 10 years.

 What is the Recipe for Success?

 This book provides a checklist that any fisheries minister could remember – even at 2 am when negotiating quotas:

1.Protect the habitats that foster ocean life.

2. Reduce the scourge of bycatch.

3. Set quotas based on science, not the fishing industry’s bottom line.
And, I would add another:


4. Enforce the rules

I added point 4 because there is often  too little enforcement in many fisheries.


80/20 Fisheries Management

This is not as challenging as it first seems.

There are around 196 countries in the world today. 44 of them are landlocked. Luxembourg and Nepal don’t have too much interest in fisheries.

25 countries control 76% of the world’s costal waters. Indeed 10 countires control 51%. These 10 countries control half of the world’s coasts – where 99% of the fish live:

1.United States,



4. Russia

5. New Zealand

6. Indonesia

7. Canada

8.United Kingdom


  1. 10.  Chile.

You’ll find similar weightings for those countries fleets doing the catching. 25 countries fleet catch 75% of all wild caught fish and the top 10 catch 53%.  The top 10 fishing countries:



3.United States







10. Denmark

Only a few of those top 10 coastal or catching countries need to get things right for big things to change.


And, whilst it may take a long time to restore the world’s Oceans to their former bounty, there is nothing to stop stocks from increasing by 40% in the near future. Now, that will go a long way to providing food for billions, good jobs for many, and a healthy and vibrant life in the Oceans.

Will Europe Deliver on A Reformed CFP?

Europe surprised many by adopting the reformed Common fisheries policy.

The new law, is strong on ambitions and  contains ambitious commitments to re-shape Europe’s fisheries.

 Slipping So Soon?

But, in the last few weeks I have wondered whether ambition will be delivered when the new European Commission takes offices.

Commissioner Damanaki made much of the running to bring the CFP to life. Some of those intricately involved in the negotiations may have been critical of her stubbornness. But, if the history, or the real history, of what happened to force the Commission’s proposal out of the doors of the Commission and into the hands of a skeptical Council and surprisingly ambitious European Parliament-which seemed to bypass the vested interests of the fisheries committee – her role will be seen as crucial.


3 Immediate Challenges

 The next 12 to 24 we will have a good indication of whether the reform is delivering. I see three areas to track to mark progress.

Make It Work At Home

They all hang around the implementation of the CFP at home, in terms of ensuring that discards ban is working, and it is working in partnership with an effective control and enforcement system.

If control and enforcement is working at sea and at the ports and is seen to be working that is good.  CCTV monitoring can already address the concerns about the lack of real compliance at sea. There are of course many in the industry who were against the use of CCTV. The age old response that Danish vessels who were using them were different – over and beyond the obvious that Danish vessels were manned by Danes – seemed to be Little Britain nationalism run wild when other countries used them,  and found them to work in the cold and wet and helped reduce discards.

However, the regulation does provide for CCTV’s use. It most importantly provides for a relatively fail-safe compliance system and sees where the all too recent past shows in many countries whole scale non-compliance.

 Make It Work Outside Europe’s Waters

Beyond for Europe’s quarters, we face a flood of imports of fish and seafood from third countries. Just a few years ago we adopted the IUU regulation. Many people thought it would have little effect. They were so very wrong.

The IUU regulation is helping countries that want and need help to address the illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing take on the battle. The European Commission and countries like France are working with fishing ministries and fishermen to address the scourge of corruption that the pollutants the governments and commerce of too many nations.

The prospect of facing a ban of a countries fish exports to their most profitable of markets- Europe -has helped focus the minds of many a fishing minister, and helped them act in the right way.

 What needs to be done?

 In many ways, there is very good news. The market is, as so often is the case, moving far quicker than governments, regulators, or lobbyists can stop them.

Despite the loss of the European Parliament of the deep sea fishing trawling, the supermarkets in France the day after chose to ban the fish that was being caught anyway.

Perhaps the lobby that worked to defeat the proposal will try and pass a law forcing supermarkets to buy their product next?

There are good indications that governments are already backsliding on commitments to discard ban in certain seas. Perhaps the glare of publicity outside the legislative arena means that many officials are moving back to an easy life?

Many in the catching sector seem to be in full denial about the nature and extent of the new CFP. It is like amnesia strikes when the word discards appears.

But, even the fisheries committee rejected the industry’s lobbyist’s demands. Rejections like that must force some sobering reflections the morning after. That sort of rejection must force even the hardest skinned to realize that the game has changed.

NGOs worked tirelessly to bring about reform. The votes at key moments were very close. The skills needed for implementation and the oversight government officials implementing rules are different from those needed for securing new EU legislation.

It will be interesting to see how, and if, NGOs will take up the challenge of implementation that is equal passion and resourcing as they did securing new laws onto the Statute book.

Why Telepathy Does Not Work & Other Lessons

For work my colleague, Sophie Norman and I,  presented some lessons learned from the work work on fisheries at Dod’s European Public Action Day.

You can find a copy of the talk here.

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Telepathy does not work.

The most effective way to persuade people is to go and speak to them. If you don’t speak to them, or get more powerful people to speak to them on your behalf, it is is hard to persuade them to alter their position.

Most people in Brussels tell me I am wrong. I could well be. I just have not worked out the knack for sending my thoughts through walls. I never found it worked when I was young in night clubs as a means of persuasion, and have tried “thoughts channeling” with my sons, but it has never worked, yet, to get them to tidy their rooms. So, in a sense of hopelessness, I try the “spoken” form of communication, and go and speak to the key person.

Speak Their Language

I find most car ads strange, or stupid, or both. They don’t speak to me. I have no idea what they are on about.

Now, the best way to understand how to speak to your audience is to read Chris Rose’s latest book “What Makes People Tick“.

If you are serious about understanding where people are coming from,  and how to communicate to them, you need to read this book.

Chris talks about the work of Pat Dade. You can find out what “type” you are by taking this test.

It may help you understand why you can’t understand dancing car ads or British politician who want to make “Little Britain” a real life expirement.

It is also helpful for re-framing your speaking points in way that your listener finds appealing. Now, of course you can continue saying exactly the same thing to the 3 different groups in society, but please don’t be surprised if 2/3 of people don’t understand, let alone of listen to you.

If you don’t want to accidentally piss of potential allies, give “Value Communicaitions” a go.

Not Everyone Is Important

There are 750 odd MEPs, a lot of Commission officials, even more government officials, and in reality most of them are not impiortant to you.

It is not that they are not important. It is jut that they are not important for you for winning your issue.

I have a rule of thumb that all issues are decided by 200 people. The trick is finding out who they are. That is not easy.

There is software you use to have a good idea who counts. Spy agencies have been using this stuff for a long time, and academics and a few firms have been using it in politics for a while. It is a useful in providing a good guestimate on whose going to sway a vote to your side.

After all, why bother trying to perform a late life political conversion of a politician who has never supported you and never in all likelihood will. You may be up for the challenge, but it is going to take you hell of lot of time and resources, and to be honest, your chances of getting what you want is going to be slim.

Similary, a lot of people spend a lot of time focusing their time on the converts. Why? They are with you – all you need to do is tell them when to turn up and how to vote! Now, it is fun to spend time with your political friends, but save that time for after the win.

Convert the Agnostics

The key people to focus on are those who are undecided and those who can bring the undecided over to you. The ‘converters’ are the sweet spot, and those are the people you need to support and work with.


Speaking to the people who really count and  in language they understand is likely to be seen as heretical.

The strange thing is that I have found them to be 3 easy ways to win campaigns. If you want to win, you may enjoy the presentation.