What Can I Do?

What Can I Do?

By Sally Campbell

When I was young, I thought activism was a sprint,
And I worked around the clock, hoping for quick change.

When I was older, I learned activism is a marathon, and I learned to pace myself.

At eighty-two , I realize it is neither sprint nor marathon;
it is a relay race. The most important thing we adults can do now
is join and support the next generation of climate activists
ready to lead the movement.

It is to them that I dedicate this book.

Jane Fonda “What Can I do?” 2020


“People Power

This is where you come in. If you want a green and just world, we’ll march together alongside you. If you’ve got ideas for how to get there, we want to learn from you. Let’s dream together, plan together and act together.Greenpeace

In these uncertain times, we all need to work in a collaborative way, support local, national and international organisations in their drive towards better permanent protection of the Oceans, Forests and Communities. In December, Greenpeace International produced a report “Deep Trouble: The murky world of the deep sea mining industry” reveals who stands to benefit and who is left at risk if governments allow deep sea mining exploitation to begin. This new industry is seeking to start mining the seabed, carving up the global commons for corporate profit. Scientists warn that deep sea mining would cause severe and potentially irreversible damage to the deep ocean and to the marine life that calls it home. Additionally, mining could damage the natural processes that store carbon and make the climate emergency even worse.

That is why it is critical that governments establish a Global Ocean Treaty in 2021  that could lead to ocean sanctuaries around the world, free from harmful human activities, instead of opening up a new frontier of environmental destruction. The full report here: Deep Trouble: The murky world of the deep sea mining industry. We need to let our leaders know we disagree with such mining. Just because it is out of sight, it is not OK for the oceans.

The major oceans around the world are so frequently a lawless place. In the next year Greenpeace is following up its excellent science and observational work in the Arctic, Atlantic and Antarctica in 2020, by looking at the Indian Ocean in a similar approach applying scientific method, identifying illegal fisheries and quantifying effects on the ecosystems. Support for Greenpeace and their Rainbow Warrior is important at a macro level.

Greenpeace International September 2020. Rainbow Warrior

Worldwide the Lawless High Seas are having a huge impact on coastal communities, West Africa being the latest example; People are setting out from the shores of Mauretania / Senegal as economic migrants driven by the collapse of local fishing resources seeking an escape through the EU connections of the Canary Islands Young people from those same coastal communities are being sent, often illegally, to Europe to provide income for their families, whilst questionable deals (for example EU debt swap agreements with African countries, which exchange debt for fishing quotas) are also leading to resource depletion.

Support for Greenpeace’s Ocean 30×30 See:30×30: A Blueprint For Ocean Protection – Executive Summary  is growing in many countries. Better governance, policing and enforcement/compliance are key to this in protecting coastal communities, fish stocks, all aspects of the marine environment. The Convention of Biodiversity held every 10 years takes place in China in 2021, is a further opportunity to right the wrongs. We, individually and as communities need to lobby our governments to show real commitment at that conference for positive change.

We, the older generations, can support younger campaigners with some wisdom, mentoring, and provide finance to organisations with science and political lobbying skills. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is scheduled to be held in Glasgow from 1-12 November 2021 under the presidency of the United Kingdom. Included within this overarching event will be the 16th meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP16), and the third meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA3). The event is the first time that Parties are expected to commit to enhanced ambition since COP21. Parties are required under the Paris Agreement every five years, to invoke a process colloquially known as the ‘ratchet mechanism’. Sponsors for the UN’s COP26 climate talks in the SEC Centre in Glasgow will also need to have strong climate credentials. COP26 here in Scotland gives us all, young and older, the right to pressure politicians into responding more rapidly to the pressure on climate, oceans and ecosystems in order to provide us with some chance of avoiding the chaos this Anthropocene World with its ever increasing fossil fuel energy demand reflected in consumer driven economic growth.

But it is not only our oceans and international waters at risk, needing vocal, scientific and community support for change. We have seen more locally in UK waters the illegal fishing in MPA’s most noticeably on Dogger Bank, and Greenpeace placing large rocks on the Bank to prevent illegal trawling. In the UK, including Scotland, the 73/74 MPAs are effectively paper parks. In Scotland we must come together to protect our inshore waters. The real problems come with the destruction of the seabed ecosystems and with the bycatch is that, in this, are the larval fish and other small marine parts of the ecosystem, the next generations. An example of working together to harness the political power needed to create change is illustrated by the work of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation.

The SCFF was formed 8 years ago, and the writer is a member of the management group. Creel boats make up 74% of Scotland’s inshore commercial fishing fleet. Despite this, the Scottish inshore creel fishing sector has historically been overlooked and underrepresented at a policy making level. This changed on the 13th of September 2012 in Inverness when the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation was formed, giving creelers the chance to unite and make their collective voices heard at a national level. The SCFF supports sustainable inshore fisheries, mostly in under 10m boats with independent fishermen in small communities using creel pots for shellfish or hand diving for scallops. Ten Fishermen’s Associations from around Scotland’s coast make up the Federation and SCFF aims to raise its profile and accessibility to all inshore creelers.

Credit: SCFF. Young creel fisherman
Credit: SCFF. Catamaran creel boat


Credit: SCFF. Selection of creel catch at Crannog Restaurant
Credit: SCFF. Checking the size of lobster
















The three mile limit on mobile fisheries was in place in large part for the 100 years preceding 1984. Since its removal in response to pressure by trawlermen, almost all the remaining demersal/finfish species, previously commercially exploited within inshore waters, have been reduced to commercial extinction, the bulk of the inshore fleet are now mainly reliant on nephrops and scallop fisheries. SCFF came together to work for Scotland’s inshore waters, environmentally sustainable fisheries, added value products and economic viability of small Scottish communities. The removal of the 3 mile limit in 1984 has been a disaster for inshore fisheries which, in the Clyde have collapsed the food chain through overfishing right up to the coastal margin with bottom trawling for nethrops and scallop dredging all that is left. In so doing Scotland and indeed the Clyde also lost the value of sea angling tourism. The Scottish government through Marine Scotland has resisted the scientific logic that tells us that Marine Protected Areas, 3 mile limits and compliance measures are essential to achieve sustainable diversity and commercial yield.

In 2020 SCFF lodged a petition for Judicial Review (JR) against the Scottish Government in the Court of Session. The case was heard this month on 17 December 2020. SCFF described why it is concerned that the case of the Proposed Inner Sound of Skye closure falls into a worrying pattern of behaviour by Marine Scotland, the directorate in charge of our fisheries, suggesting an overly close relationship with parts of the fishing industry. The legal issue is the handling of the Scottish Government’s Inshore Fisheries Pilot Programme; specifically its decision to turn down a pilot closure scheme for the Inner Sound of Skye. The proposed Pilot was designed to provide evidence on the environmental and economic benefits or otherwise of creeling as opposed to seabed trawling in Scotland’s important inshore nephrops fishery. This legal challenge highlights an important concern about the way our inshore fisheries are managed by Marine Scotland and an apparent mismatch between policy and practice.

We have an uncontroversial definition of fisheries management: “the application by a public authority of fisheries management measures in support of inshore fisheries policy objectives and the public interest”. The broader question needing urgent examination is whether Marine Scotland, in managing our inshore fisheries, meets this definition both in the case of the Inner Sound Pilot Programme and more generally. The failures on behalf of Marine Scotland that led to the SCFF initiating this Judicial Review follow a predictable pattern of behaviour, which suggests that it may not meet the public interest requirement. The SCFF believes this to be a matter of great public concern because our fisheries are one of Scotland greatest assets. Our inshore fisheries are of particular ecological value as well as being of huge economic significance to coastal communities but only if fished sustainably and not irrevocably damaged.

This JR is also about the Scottish Government doing what they say they are going to do by putting evidence at the heart of management. In this case, the crucial issue is understanding the relationship between protection of key marine ecology and a maintaining a healthy fishing economy. The issue is therefore also about trust and confidence in the Scottish government’s policies. For every one of us the sea is a public resource, the Commons, owned by no one but which must be managed. SCFF awaits the outcome of the JR and will continue fighting for the future management of conservation, communities, sustainable fisheries and economies

We know on Arran how we campaigned for the No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay, then later the South Arran Nature Conservation MPA, both to aid conservation and regeneration. Over years the community of Arran and wider supporters have risen to the challenge of resisting salmon farming and its damage to the ecosystems below the water. That needs to continue, maybe on a broader basis for the whole of the inshore waters in Scotland. Many people have been busy with the science of salmon farming as new applications have sought to add to the 16 salmon farms already present in the Clyde. This is a multinational industry which has a low initial capital cost and which empties its waste into the inshore environment without cost to the industry but huge cost to the marine environment while taking its profits offshore. That is what makes for salmon at only £4.99/kg over Christmas 2020 at major supermarkets.

This all takes energy, so widening the generations involved in campaigning and for political change at all levels is important. It involves encouragement, liaising, educating, mentoring, supporting. It is a marathon, beware the burn-out which comes with despair, as we feel no one is interested in how the environment, climate change, the oceans, national and local politics are managed. So encouraging the young people to get involved here, as local Democracy is also important. We need young political activists. The Democratic deficit is visible in many areas of our lives on Arran too. Democratic scrutiny is vital at all levels of government. We need our Arran Community Council with statutory responsibilities, and I believe we also need to keep the 3 North Ayrshire councillors who have oversight for Ardrossan and Arran (see NAC Boundary Changes Consultation). Arran must work in collaboration with other NAC councillors, not in splendid isolation!

Only we collectively can change the world!

“Change the World

Imagine a world where forests flourish and oceans are full of life. Where energy is as clean as a mountain stream. Where everyone has security, dignity and joy. We can’t build this future alone, but we can build it together.” Greenpeace


Fonda, Jane (2020) What Can I Do? My Path from Climate Despair to Action. Penguin Press

Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (2017) 3 Mile Limit. The case for a sustainable fishery. www.scottishcreelfishermensfederation.co.uk/PDF/3%20Mile%20Limit.pdf

Sally Campbell, December 2020