Who Owns Nature?

“Possession is nine tenths of the law” is a truism – and one which multinational fishing corporations must have felt applied to them. They possessed Common Fisheries Policy fishing quota, and that meant, as far as they were concerned, that it belonged to them.

Yesterday the High Court thought otherwise. In a landmark ruling the Court decided that no-one owns the fish in the sea. This happened thanks to the combined efforts of Defra minister Richard Benyon and Greenpeace – yes, an unlikely combination but those are often the ones which deliver fundamental change. The Government can now take back fishing quota that was freely handed out to the big boys in 2006, and redistribute some of it to the little fishing fleet of inshore waters, without compensating the corporations.

On the same day an important report was published,  by the technocratically named Adapation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change. The report Managing the land in a changing climate made a series of recommendations, but the one I wanted to pick out today is the idea that to protect the UK’s carbon stores, landowners should stop managing peatlands unsustainably. The ASC recommended the usual mix of regulation and incentive to achieve this, and also suggested developing a voluntary market in carbon, to encourage businesses to offset their carbon emissions as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility actions.


sphagnum moss doing what they do best, storing carbon.

Does anyone else think it odd that where wildlife lives in salty water it belongs to no-one, but when it’s little sphagnum mosses living in freshwater, diligently storing carbon dioxide for the planet and for our benefit, these (and their carbon) belong to the landowner, and can be bought and sold in the market, just like – well, fish.

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in agriculture, biodiversity, carbon storage, climate change, ecosystem services, fishing, regulatory reform, soils and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Who Owns Nature?

  1. Pingback: Who Owns Nature? - Gordon McGlone

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