Prince Charles has come under fire from fishing leaders for suggesting the industry is not doing enough to prevent falling stocks, comparing the campaign to safeguard key species with his own battle to highlight climate change 20 years ago.
During a speech at a Marine Stewardship Council reception in London on Tuesday, he said science had shown that the fishing industry was facing a massive fall in stocks which would have a knock-on effect on feeding people in the world’s poorest countries, and the issue was being neglected.
Scottish fishing leaders condemned the prince’s comments, accusing him of ignoring the country’s efforts to conserve stocks, and said he should listen to experienced fishermen rather than scientists. Some have labelled it a classic case of a member of Royal Family putting their foot in it.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief executive Hansen Black said it was an instance of Prince Charles himself being out of touch, rather than the industry.
The prince told guests at the Clarence House function: “The science tells us very clearly that if we continue to fish without any care for the long-term sustainability of fish stocks, we will soon face a nightmare collapse in stocks and inevitable starvation among the world’s poorest people.
“So I think the debate about the marine environment is rather like that which surrounded climate change in the 1980s. Back then climate change was something about which a few people were trying very hard to make their voices heard, occasionally myself, but nobody wanted to listen.”
The prince said over the years he had tried to make speeches and hold seminars about the fishing problem, but again it had been difficult to get the attention of all kinds of people, including agencies, organisers and consumers. It was a case of the subject being “quite literally out of sight and out of mind,” he added.
Carol Macdonald, a member of the Cod Crusade which campaigned against quota cuts some years ago, said it was wrong to take advice from scientists. Good fish were being thrown back into the sea and only real scientists were the fishermen themselves.
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said the prince had used the occasion to issue a warning in general instead of using it to give the industry the encouragement that was absolutely justified.
Mr Black said: “I think that if Prince Charles thinks that people are ignoring the issues about fishing stocks then he is quite clearly miles out of touch with what’s going on.
“The Scottish industry and Shetland industry have taken massive steps towards rebuilding fishing stocks and it’s happening quite clearly. [The increase] of cod stocks is a result of the efforts put in by the industry. If he is taking that line then it’s him that’s out of touch with reality.”