Bell on ... a fishy tale of protest over a US ghost ship

They were still trying to find Nemo. The mummy fish and little Flipper had swum for weeks. A shadow passed overhead as a ship made passage and the baby fish asked: "Mummy, why isn't that ship making a noise?"

"Because, dear, it's a ghost ship heading for British West Hartlepool."

"But why do they call it a ghost ship?"

"Well, it's an old American ship that has been waiting for years to be scrapped."

"But why didn't the Americans do that, mummy?"

"Good point, because Americans do destruction. But the Brits were building and breaking ships when their cousins were still in short pants."

"So the Brits are good at it?"

"Yes, and particularly on the North East coast, where they've got a specialised workforce for this type of job."

"So everyone must be pleased?"

"Not everyone, dear. Many in the town are pleased because more than ten per cent of the young men are long-term unemployed, but there are some protesters."

"Why's that mummy? Surely it's better to have the ships broken up carefully than have them run up a beach in Bangladesh and cut up by men and boys in bare feet with no face masks?"

"That's right, little one."

"And aren't all environmentalists supposed to think globally, mummy?"

"Well, I'm not sure whether it's think or act." The mummy fish stopped in mid-track as a dead tuna floated by trailing a net.

"It's complicated, dear. People say that this is more of an anti-war protest to president Bush when he visits the UK than it is about ship-breaking. The protesters know that the people in charge are terrified of taking decisions that are controversial or unpopular, even if those decisions are for the long-term benefit of the community."

"But ..." The little fish swam quickly to avoid a load of dead fish dropping past. Even little Flipper knew that around the coasts of Europe, ten of the wrong sort of fish are dumped for each that is kept.

"But it must have been the people in charge who ditched the nuclear waste in Morecambe Bay that we swam over last week, mummy."

"That's right, my little codpiece. But for human beings, it's out of sight and out of mind, not like the ships."

"So where will it all end?"

"Well, it will only end when there is a robust economic strategy for the regions and everyone acts more responsibly. Now, enough questions, we've still got to find Nemo. I've got a sore throat too - where's my Fisherman's Friend?"


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