Where were you?


A mermaid
A mermaid

On Monday I met a mermaid who was no mere maid, saw that bloke off the telly and spotted the most unlikely revolutionary journalist – and it was jolly cold.

It was probably jolly cold everywhere, but it was cold walking across Westminster Bridge with hundreds of others calling on the government (that means you Defra) to live up to its promises, pull its fingers out of the places where they are stuck and designate a fully functioning system of properly protected marine conservation areas around our coasts.

‘What do we want??!’ – ‘127 MCZs!!’

‘When do we want them??!’ – “Now!!’

A journalist who knows about fish – Charles Clover

It wasn’t exactly Les Miserables, and no barricades were erected or stormed, but hundreds of us felt that warm glow (and it was jolly cold) that we were at least ‘doing something’ – and some of us felt a little nostalgia for our youth and demos and protests of the past.

Charles Clover, who knows his fish, seems to me an unlikely revolutionary, but he seemed to be getting into the swing of this protest lark – if only the Morning Star still existed (as a daily paper) he could get a job there.

And there was that bloke off the telly – Hugh Fearnley-whatsisname.  He was good! He told us all how lovely we  were and how rubbish the  government is.  That’s what we wanted to hear.

It was good. It was cold – but it was good. And it was doing something and literally raising our voices on  the subject of proper protection for the marine environment as all political parties had promised.  Would Labour be any better on this subject than the Con/Lib shower that have stalled on this issue? I hope so, if only because it was Labour who brought in the Marine Act that is the basis for Marine Conservation Zones.

We were a big shoal of protestors turning heads in central London and making a bit of noise on a cold February day.

She's got a fish on her head.
She’s got a fish on her head.

As well as mermaids and scuba divers, people dressed as cod and skates, fishermen and yachties there were Marine Conservation Society folk and Fish Fight folk and Save our Seas folk.  I met several ex-RSPB staff and one current RSPB staff member, and some folk from Greenpeace but this wasn’t a joint effort by the environment movement.

I wasn’t surprised that Buglife and  Butterfly Conservation weren’t there (although they would have been very welcome) but I think someone (and I have no idea who) missed a trick by not having RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and WWF involved.  All those organisations support MCZs, worked hard on the Marine Act  and want the government to do the right thing.

A few more hundred, or thousand, people wouldn’t have done any harm and it would have been a tangible sign that this was not just an ask from that bloke off the telly but from the ‘movement’ as a whole.  I wonder why that didn’t happen. Maybe someone could enlighten us.

It's that bloke off the telly - Hugh whatsisname?





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45 Replies to “Where were you?”

  1. Maybe no-one knew about the march? Where was it publicised? Maybe people have realised your government do not care? What other country allows it's politicians (Mr.Pickled) to overide any objections to house building, even on green landscapes painted by your most favoutied of artists Gainsborough, once mortalised in oil paint soon to be a dash of grey, perhapz

    1. Thanks to everyone including yourself Mark for attending the rally on 25th February. The outstanding turnout - nigh on 2,000 strong, in freezing temperatures, reflected the depth of feeling felt by so many that our seas are being left out in the cold when it comes to effective protection and the call for 127 MCZs could not be missed.
      In response to the query about other organisations presence, the rally was jointly organised by Marine Conservation Society, British Sub Aqua Club, SeaLife and Fish Fight, and supporters from many NGOs came along in response to invites via Wildlife & Countryside Link, Bob Earll's CMS email service, and call outs to local supporters from Friends of the Earth, National Trust, Greenpeace, Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and New Economics Foundation - and indeed Mark's newsblast - thanks Mark - and of course the Fish Fight programmes and website for 3 weeks prior to the day. Apart from some promotion for the organisers, we agreed to focus attention on the message of 127 MCZs rather than branding for the myriad organisations who were present and thus our request that participants wore the 127 T-shirts (if only we'd had enough for everyone). Having Hugh on side and indeed in front of the campaign has had a phenomenal impact and will ensure that for the 2,000 amazing people who gave up their time to withstand the cold and make their call for 127 MCZs heard, will be heard. Again and again, until government accepts that society and the environment deserve an equal voice to that of economics and industry - even at sea.
      We now have until 31st March to garner as many responses to the consultation as possible and MCS, The Wildlife Trusts and Fish Fight are all prompting a huge response.

  2. These are political matters but I always think it is better not to make them unnecessarily party-political. We need as widespread support (and action) as possible, on all aspects of conservation, and party-political comments are likely to alienate some supporters.

    Yes, as you say, it was 'Labour who brought in the Marine Act', but it had all-party support and followed the 2001 Private Members' 'Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill' introduced by the Conservative MP John Randall, sadly blocked in the House of Lords.

    But I'm sure the Conservatives (under Mrs Thatcher) will be grateful for your recognition of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act!

    1. David - I look forward to the time when I can needle a Labour government for its failings on the environment but until that day it is a Conservative government (oops! - coalition government) that is failing to deliver. It's the job of NGOs to hold all governments' feet to the fire to ensure they deliver on their promises - and it's my hobby. Take a look at my blog of 19 February to see the quote from the Conservative manifesto on MCZs. Richard Benyon and Defra are not delivering on their promises.

  3. Mark, if Labour want to get back in power perhaps they should actually try to get people to vote for them. I live in the Eastleigh constituency where, if you believe the media, there is a hugely important by-election taking place tomorrow. I have been inundated with literature from the Lib Dems and Conservatives (none of which actually tells me anything about their policies), have had several leaflets from UKIP and even one from the National Health Action Party. What about Labour? Nothing whatsoever. I actually feel quite sorry for their candidate but how can I vote for someone about whom I know nothing? Surprisingly, the Green Party are even less interested in Eastleigh as they aren't even fielding a candidate. So at the moment it looks like my vote will be going to the Beer, Baccy & Crumpet Party!

  4. Weekdays are not the best days of the week to hold a rally, unless you don't work. Better planning would have meant greater attendance, support & publicity.
    Common sense.

    1. Jan A - the attendance was pretty good considering it was a working day and it was very cold. And if you are aiming to influence Parliament then it helps to be there on a day when MPs are present (so that really means Mon-Thurs). No, the point is that with more organisations involved there would have been more people.

  5. I see there is some movement on answering the West Lothian Question. It's only taken a third of a century. Maybe by 2014 any possibility of Two Eds running our lives will have gone forever, and we can continue to stumble into the dark with the least worst options chosen from whomsoever is left outside the prison system.

    The Westminster gig looked jolly fun - I was ensconced in a windowless basement a few hundred metres NNW of it for the day. It would be nice to imagine that the fish rally will effect some better outcomes for marine life but I'm not going to hold my breath. Did it actually fire a synapse in any MP's head? Another day, another demo ... but loads of quirky holiday snaps to be viewed later in Okinawa or wherever.

    Much as I like HF-W I can't help thinking he's Harry Hill, moonlighting as a chef, especially when surrounded by "Fight" banners and cod mackerel.

  6. Well.... As mentioned on Monday, I was at the top of the Millbank tower looking down on you all and feeling a bit jealous that I (in common with many others) had to attend a work meeting at that time on that day.
    Yes it was cold there on Monday, (it was everywhere I think, but that's the coldest I've been walking along the Thames in London).
    I rather think that the march (let alone the campaign itself) was not well publicised, even if Hugh FW was involved...
    Rather like the neonicotinoids (delayed) vote which has received little coverage.

  7. A tory MP once said (about 8 years ago) if you don't like poverty, work harder, then you Mark said they work only from Monday-Thursday added to that all of the recess' they have, I almost fell on the floor in laughter. I have to agree having the protest on weekdays is the only way, but at the same time you're not going to get a lot of people turning up whilst they are busy working.
    I went past a small fishmonger situated near the beach today, busy photographing birds and I got talking to the bloke who fishes and owns the shop, he was in massive favour of MCZ's but he made a very valid point, "whos's going to police it?", I said perhaps the coastguard services, "they've been butcherd in budget cuts, they won't be able to do it", perhaps the navy, "ditto son". Maybe this is the reason heels are being dragged....money!

    1. Douglas - most MPs work pretty hard. They are mostly working pretty hard in their constituencies on Fridays.

      1. Really? Yours might be Mark and you might have a lot contact through the various projects you do. But I guess they must be working away hard, to busy to sign EDM's, to busy appearing on reality tv shows and comedy quiz panels, to busy jetting off to foreign climates on fact finding trips, too busy to sort the enviroment and MCZ's, to busy? I have to disagree. My MP hasn't responded to me about building proposal for Delapre Abbey in Northampton, a famous battle field site during the "battle of the roses".

  8. Oh I forgot, sorry Mark. You said certain NGO's weren't present, yet the WT and RSPB Scotland were all over the issue on twitter over the last few weeks and the RSPB are heavily promoting the issue on their website, very sad they never turned up at the protest. I think I mentioned in other post about the RSPB's lack of involvement/mission creesp etc and got suitably castigated.....yet those who castigated me on here seem somewhat silent over your remark...how odd? And no justification/reason from those who castigated me why the RSPB were not present.

    1. Douglas - I don't know why there weren't other NGOs involved. Were they not asked/invited? Or did they decide not to engage. I'd be interested to know - but there were quite a lot of people there anyway.

      1. Mark, have not the RSPB always been a bit cautious over joining in with physical protests of this type? I seem to recall there was a bit of reticence towards official involvement in a number of events during the time I worked at The Lodge. The exception was No Airport At Cliffe although this was RSPB-led in the first place. I am not sure what the policy is at the other NGOs but the Wildlife Trusts and WWT would probably be too stretched by personnel limitations,knowing their general staffing levels.

  9. Well the fact that RSPB were not there does not concern me as conservationists have made great fuss about decline of farmland birds so my hope is they were busy solving that issue.
    I make no excuse that I want the RSPB to do what it says on the label(birds)if they want to go into other things then they have to change their name.
    Perhaps Badger,Marine.Police The CAP For Conservation and lots of other bits and pieces.
    That name seems a good starting point.

    1. Dennis, I don't really understand your comment because MCZ's will benefit seabirds so the RSPB should be heavily involved in this campaign.

      1. I am not sure why Douglas thinks the RSPB are not involved, a lot of the heads-up I have been seeing on my Facebook pagehave been generated by RSPB press releases.

  10. "Maybe this is the reason heels are being dragged.... Money".
    I rather think so, just like Mr.HFW's fish fight programme on krill in the S.Atlantic t'other day.
    Even the scientists/conservationists were reluctant to give a straight answer to Hugh's question re setting up a 200 mile MCZ around S.Georgia.... Knowing that it will cost millions (3 ish) and they don't know where that money would come from.....
    It's a shame but it's always about money these days...

  11. But to have yet another cheap pop at generally very hard-working MPs is of little help here. They get heavily criticised for NOT "engaging with the public" and yet they get hammered when they do try to do so (albeit in a very bizarre way sometimes - this is no defence of Nadine Dorries by the way).

    1. Doug politicians get heavily ciricised for NOT engaging with the public for very good reasons, firstly lets take the point of them working hard,1) how many recess' does parliament have in a year and how long are those breaks for? And politicinas claim teachers have to much time off, ha ok 2) 4 day week, yes they have surgeries on Fridays, but not every Friday and sometimes they get cancelled and sometimes only lasting for two hours, phew that's a long shift!! Your next point about engaging with the public? Read this blog and how many MP's engaged with the voters on EDM603! Badger cull have they engaged/listened to both sides or just one? I have never seen my MP on my doorstep or any of his canvassers, nor did I see anyone from Labour or the Libs, thats a whole housiing estae containg a lot of disengaged voters EVEN during the election, my last MP Sally Keeble (I didn't vote for her nor like her)Lab, would walk round her ward knocking on random doors asking people what they though and that was after she got elected so I'll give her some credit, if politicinas are engaging with the public why at every byelection/general election more empahsis is placed on securing postal votes? Hardly a personal/engaing form of communication compared to actual face to face engagement , sadly I feel my politician and the politicians in genereal aren't working hard enough, read what Tony Davis has said on here, because Labour don't feel they can win Eastleigh they're not bothering,is that right? Is that the defination of working hard as Eastleigh WAS an old railway town I would imagine there must be some strong Labour support there to tap into if the politicians were to engage them.
      Sorry it's not a chep shot at politicians, if a politician does something good then I'll be the first to praise them regardless of which party they represent.

    2. As Mark hinted earlier, serving governments have to take the flak because they are flying the aeroplane. I think what a lot of people forget in the scramble to argue along political lines is that the key word is 'serving'. It is beyond the scope of this blog but the Tories promised the NHS was safe in their hands (actual election promise) yet there are many that believe the NHS was effectively cease to exist after April. I am not sure where the Lib Dems stand on this issue given they are sharing power but the important point is that Labour are not in a position to change anything at the present time. Ian Hislop admitted on HIGNFY that the programme was always more likely to target a serving government rather than show any political bias. Basically, Mark is doing just the same thing and I am sure he will not go easy on Labour when the time comes...in fact, I know he wont.

  12. Mark, while you are mentioning Defra, I suppose you know that a triennial review of NE and the EA is taking place to see if they are giving "value for money?" Who is reviewing Defra to see if THEY are giving "value for money?"

  13. Does it not say something when raising concerns about OUR Environment is left to public protests? Where are the Government, where are Defra, where are NE, where are the EA. Are they too busy to care?

    1. In my experience Defra, NE and EA are staffed by very competent people. They have to do the bidding of their political masters - a look back will reveal many of those to have been complete numpties.

      The phrase "Lions led by donkeys" springs to mind

  14. Eh?
    The protest was primarily a critical stance AGAINST governmental (or DEFRA) heel-dragging.
    That's why the march (or public protest) ended at westminster.
    Have I misunderstood you Diapensia?

  15. Buglife not invited as far as I am aware, but we do concern ourselves with the multitude of diverse marine invertebrates.

    We very much support the call for 127 MCZs!

    And an ecologically coherent network.

    Buglife CEO

  16. Douglas. I don't happen to agree with pretty-well any of your points in your response to me, so I think we should probably (only) agree to differ and leave it there eh?

  17. Mark, I think the question is where was everybody when the Wildlife Trusts presented their petition fish in Westminster a few weeks ago?

  18. Somewhat unfair Mark. Not every environmental organisation has to get involved with every issue or project. The Green movement has its own ecology. Different organisations have their own niches within that ecology.

    Anyway thank to the demo the MCZ issue is now on the map, just in time for us all to participate in the DEFRA consultation. The marine organisations haven't exactly been stellar up till now in letting everyone know of the existence of the consultation, and what they would recommend us to say. My own take is as follows (but Mark you may have learned something more on the demo?):

    - the consultation is asking us specifically what we think about the Scientific Committee recommendations on MCZs.
    - without wading through the paperwork, I think they must have recommended the '127' MCZs that the demo was on about.
    - so the best conservation response is I guess to say that you support the scientific recommendations.

    Personally I would like to see a lot more, but I'm not sure if that is within the remit of the consultation. I'm waiting for some feedback from inter al. the Marine Conservation Society and the Fishfight people on this.

    Anyway we have until the end of March to tell DEFRA. You can bet that the Fishing Industry will be fighting these, so the more conservation responses the better.


    1. Jamie - it is the Wildlife Trusts who have done the best job, in my opinion, in directing us all to the consultation. More on this later.

      1. Re Wildlife Trusts - yes, just seen their suggested response. I have been trying to extract this from various marine conservation groups without success so far so well done the Wildlife Trusts. I got it a bit wrong earlier - it is 31 MCZs they are consulting on now, but no harm in mentioning the full 127.

        Here is the Dorset link but I think every local trust is blogging it.


        1. Non-devolved UK, Northern Ireland, Manx, Scottish and Welsh legislations to pursue in the Irish Sea: http://www.irishsea.org. All UK MPs can vote on the non-devolved bit, of course, though only those for constituencies in England are being lobbied, perhaps?

  19. Ok then Doug fair point, I've raised issues/concerns were I think politicians aren't working hard in response to your point, as usual people tell me I'm wrong, yet fail to explain or give examples as to why I'm wrong, am I the only person who thinks this? What was the last turn out at the general election? How about a bit of vice-versa and you give me some examples of polticians working hard.

  20. Where were we? Quite a lot of us have work to do, and can ill afford a day waving placards about and hob-nobbing with some chef off the telly. And what sort of message would it have given to our largely enviro-sceptic politicos and media? Probably that our environmental NGOs are overstaffed, and provide nice jobs for Guardian readers.

  21. Douglas.
    I didn't say you were "wrong".
    I did say "I don't happen to agree with [you]..."
    There is a difference.
    There is a whole plethora of reasons why I disagree with you, but I'd be typing all day to go over them.
    So I'll leave it if you don't mind, as I've also already said earlier in these comments.

  22. An interesting piece but it is worth noting that many people from various organisations did turn out. However, it was more important to appear as a collection of individuals for a common cause rather than take banners with your own organisation's logo on and shamelessly publicise. Therefore, it probably did seem as though it was mostly members of the public rather than organisations attending. But if you take a look on Twitter you can see many photos from the rally posted by a large variety of organisations and their representatives. eg. @marinet_uk and @wwwfoeuk along with many of the NGOs you mentioned in the article. The rally was merely one part of an important campaign - the amount of signatures on petitions, support via social media, and ratings for Hugh's programme, also speak volumes.


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