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Conservation is Catch of the Day

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Top London restaurants are paying fishermen in Dorset top dollar for their fish through BLUE’s new conservation scheme. The scheme is a unique collaboration between fishermen and conservationists which is helping to protect a 90 square mile reef in Lyme Bay, Dorset, and securing a better living for fishermen in the process. Under the ‘Reserve Seafood’ brand, restaurants are paying higher prices for fish, aware that customers are becoming more discerning over the sustainability of their food choices.

Fishermen in the ports of Lyme Bay on the Dorset and Devon border are making a better living from their fish by practising conservation, thanks to a new scheme launched by the charity, Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE).

In the culmination of a three-year project within a 90 square mile protected area, fishermen have begun to sell their wares under the Reserve Seafood brand to top London restaurants which pay higher prices for fully traceable fish.

They are able to because chefs place a high value on the “boat-to-plate” provenance, the quality and the sustainability of the seafood caught by small inshore fishing boats from West Bay, Lyme Regis, Beer and Axmouth on the Dorset and Devon coast.

The project, a collaboration between the fishermen of the four Lyme Bay ports and the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE), has installed chiller rooms, ice-makers and freezer units in return for fishermen signing up to a strict conservation code and electronic monitoring.

BLUE’s partners, leading fish merchants Direct Seafoods, collect the day’s catch of fish and shellfish from Lyme Bay ports in the late afternoon, transport it to their London base and by early the following morning, chefs at London’s top restaurants are preparing Reserve Seafood fish for their customers.

45 boats belong to a ground-breaking project started by Blue Marine Foundation which uniquely harnessed the skills and interests of fishermen, conservationists and marine authorities in an effort to regenerate an over-exploited and damaged 90 square miles of reef in Lyme Bay.

Scallop dredging on the reefs was banned in 2008 but fishermen were faced with a new threat: a proliferation of pots and static nets in the protected reef area.  Some reported a decline in catches of as much as 50 per cent.

Enter Blue Marine Foundation who safeguarded the fishermen’s rights of access to the fishery, in return for a stringent conservation code which sets limits on the numbers of nets and pots that may be used and requires every boat to use the mobile-phone-based inshore vessel monitoring system (iVMS), which records every boat’s position and its catches.

Every box of seafood collected by Direct Seafoods carries a Lyme Bay Reserve Seafood label detailing the scheme and the port where landed and this branding is retained all the way through to the chef who will ensure his customers are made aware of the provenance of the food they are eating.

But why do fishermen, battling to make a living in sometimes harsh and dangerous conditions, want to go to the extra bother of taking part in this scheme? The answer is simple: as well as guaranteeing their future livelihoods by fishing responsibly, they are also seeing a significant uplift in prices they earn for supplying premium quality lobsters, brown crabs, diver scallops, bream, bass and rays among many other species. Not only that, but innovative chefs are eager to receive and pay for under-utilised species such as spider crabs, whiting and pouting which were previously thrown back or used for bait.  What’s more, fishermen are reporting an increase of nearly every type of fish in the waters.

Gavin Zieman, a fisherman at Axmouth said: ‘This project has actually made Axmouth harbour.  It’s made it a sustainable, viable port for the small boats that operate out of there.  It makes what we’re catching and landing a lot more attractive to a much wider set of people.  We’ve seen an increase of between 20 and 30 per cent.  Good stable prices, which makes a big difference to us.’

Jim Newton, Chairman of Beer and East Devon Fisherman’s Association described the project as ‘common sense’.  He said Lyme Bay fish is now getting ‘top dollar’ and that the project ‘should have been done years ago.’

Laky Zervudachi, sustainability director at Direct Seafoods, said: “Our chef customers love the fact that they can promote the freshness and quality of the fish they are serving and tell their diners exactly how and where it was caught. Sustainability is a key ingredient.”

Iain Smith of the Berners Tavern, who regularly purchases the Reserve Seafood branded fish said, “This is a great new source of fully sustainable fish. So fresh, from boat to plate – fantastic fish.”

Tim Glover, Blue Marine Foundation’s project director said. “It’s a perfect shop window for the conservation and fishery management work we have been doing in Lyme Bay and gives fishermen something back for having the vision to support lower impact and sustainable fishing. We hope to roll the Reserve Seafood label into other UK projects if and when the criteria can be met in those fisheries”.

Charles Clover, chairman of Blue Marine Foundation, said Reserve Seafood is here to stay: “It’s real evidence that fishing and conservation can work together. BLUE is a marine conservation charity with a global reach, working with governments to protect vast areas of ocean from overfishing. In the UK we are hands on, and we have been working to create win-win outcomes like this”.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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