In March this year the NCE put out a Statement calling for a moratorium on pilchard / sardine quotas – i.e. a zero quota for at least three years, to allow for a recovery. Pilchard numbers are down to perhaps less than 1% of their historic population. Key easy-to-monitor indicators on the state of the pilchard resource – namely the numbers of Gannets and Penguins breeding on off-shore islands - have been revealing this dramatic decline over many years through alarming declines in their own numbers. Both the seabird indicators and the professional advice of marine scientists have been disregarded by the Minister, in favour of the views of the Marine Resources Advisory Council (which is biased towards the industry) and his own feelings on the issue. Our Statement, as reflected in the media at that time, was rejected as scaremongery.
On 6th December Cabinet decided to set a zero quota for pilchards / sardines for a three-year period of January 2018 – December 2020. This decision was announced on 12 December, and started appearing in the media yesterday and today (see attached). Because of our Statement earlier in the year, the NCE was approached for comment. Our position is explained below. This is a very important decision for the Marine ecosystem. It shows that, even though we did not get the immediate response that we hoped for in March, within the year sense prevailed. This reflects very well on Cabinet and its members.
An important lesson that comes from this is set out in the last paragraph below. Organisations that isolate themselves, avoid working in collaboration, work in secrecy, lack transparency and accountability, inevitable also exhibit poor governance, poor decision-making and unsustainable practices. This all applies to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. This ministry is in need of profound transformation.