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Benyon: TV chef 'missing big picture' in fish fight






The presenter wants the fisheries minister to increase the number of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) after more than £8m was spent on identifying 127 areas where dolphins and other rare species most need protection.
However the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) only plans to creatse 31 MCZs by the end of the year - with no firm timetable for the future.
In an interview in Mr Benyon’s Newbury constituence office, later televised on Channel 4, the chef took Mr Benyon to task and told viewers: “We're a little concerned that the Government are only going to look at 31 of those in the coming year, and at this point they haven't given us a time frame for the rest.”
But Mr Benyon later defended his position and told the Newbury Weekly News: “We will designate more zones but the problem we have is that an indepdendent scientific advisory panel said there was insufficient evidence for a great many others.
“We need more time to secure that evidence because many zones are outside the six nautical miles of our shore and are fished by other countries.”
He added: “I won’t stop British fishermen only to see Belgian trawlers dragging nets through one of those areas. If I do it on a whim it might go to judicial review. It needs to be done properly. I wish (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s) Fish Fight campaigners would see the bigger picture.”
Mr Benyon said that: “Actually I get on with him well and, although it might not suit his campaign to admit it too often, he’s got a minister who feels very strongly about reforming fisheries and conserving our seas.”
Mr Benyon won praise from the Fish Fight campaign after the UK Government secured a historic victory in Brussels to set firm dates to introduce a ban.
The agreement signals a step towards fundamental reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and will see the wasteful practice of discarding edible fish banned for stocks like herring and mackerel from January 2014.
A ban for white fish stocks was also agreed, to begin in January 2016.
Earlier this year Mr Benyon played a pivotal role in brokering the agreement that was eventually reached following a day and night of lengthy negotiations.



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