Friday, 29 August 2008

Collecting for today to collect for tomorrow?

Say YES to Sustainable Seafood” the leaflet handed out a few years ago by a pretty girl in the town center said. As I chatted with her I glanced at it, and then started reading it. On my way to a meeting, I put it in my pocket to read later, a bit further along I picked up another one a thoughtless pedestrian had discarded so I could give one to a friend. The leaflet contained a list of fish that the World Wildlife Fund says were currently being fished in a sustainable manner, and those that were not. It gave links to other organizations part of the same Sustainable Seafood campaign, but more importantly gave a list of things to look for and ask about when buying fish to ensure that we were buying only a commodity which had been ethically and responsibly produced. That means not only in accord with current international and national marine and trade legislation, but also conservation and ecological guidelines.

One of the key questions is where the goods on sale actually come from, that the population of a species may be sustainable in one region of the seas, but the population of the same species is declining off another country’s coasts.

I've been consuming fish for a good part of my life, after reading the WWF leaflet I wonder why I really had not given much thought to the environmental impact of what I bought at the fish counter. It was inexplicable (as I was brought up to be conservation conscious and regularly avoid products I do not believe have been produced in the manner I as a customer would approve). The fish leaflet though gave me something else to think about. Now I know, and now I ask. Usually in the shops which I use the source of the fish is given on the label. If not and the seller cannot (or will not) tell me where the fish comes from, I now do not buy it on principle. Probably a lot of people in my city have not yet met the pretty girls with their leaflets or seen the media campaign, and don’t even think yet about where their Friday dinner comes from. I hope they do soon.

Surely is it not the same with antiquities? Can collectors collecting for today collect for tomorrow? Can they help retain the sustainability of the historic environment by buying and curating portable antiquities responsibly? The PAS advice which says in effect “ask where its from and how it got there, and if in doubt, don’t buy” seems generally applicable. The PAS is above all a sizable public information campaign, wouldn't it be great if this aspect of its work encouraging only responsible collecting and that of volunteer groups like SAFE were copied elsewhere?

Logo from the Marine Stewardship Council, a sort of a marine wildlfe SAFE

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