Exclusive: Michael Gove misses Westminster press conference on marine conservation

Exclusive: Michael Gove misses Westminster press conference on marine conservation

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Michael Gove missed press conference about marine conservation policies in Westminster today (July 10).

The Secretary of State for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs was due to speak at the briefing, where UN Patron of the Oceans and endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh detailed his plans to swim the length of the English Channel to promote marine conservation.

When asked by talkRADIO, Mr Pugh said he had had several meetings with Gove on policies around protecting oceans but would not elaborate on what they contained, or how they might be affected by Brexit.

The press office for the Department for Food and Rural Affairs said Gove was unable to attend due to “diary issues”.

A source in Westminster said Gove was at a cabinet meeting as normal this morning.

White paper on fishing

Last week, Gove published a white paper on fishing policies from 2020 onwards in which he spoke of a “a sea of opportunity … we can take back control of our waters and revitalise coastal communities”.

Read more: Nigel Farage: I'll fight May's Brexit plan

But the Guardian reported that a detail in the white paper stated that the government “[does] not intend to change the method for allocating existing quota.”

Conservation groups say that controlling the quota would help scale back overfishing.

UK's fish owned by foreign companies

A Greenpeace investigation found that almost two thirds of the UK’s fishing quota is owned by three big companies based outside of the UK, and 44% of the UK's fish is owned by foreign companies.

The government does have the power to change the quotas if it wanted, even under UK rules, but it would be a complex process to do so and it could potentially face legal challenges from the current owners.

Professor Callum Roberts, a marine conservation expert from the University of York, also appeared at the press conference and said just 1% of the UK’s oceans are currently protected.

Read more: Jacob Rees-Mogg: May has run away from her Brexit promises 

Brexiteer Gove is one of the ministers standing by Theresa May after a string of resignations, including David Davis and Boris Johnson.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show at the weekend that he was satisfied the Prime Minister’s plan would “honour” the result of the referendum.

Mr Pugh will begin his 560km swim along the English Channel this month.