APPG adventures: My internship at Mindfully Wired

From the Houses of Parliament to the Royal Geographic Society to Fishmongers’ Hall, MWC’s Intern Jacob Ashton tells us what it means to collaborate with fish-focused Parliamentarians and why he is optimistic about the future of fisheries management and policy.

Upon starting my internship with Mindfully Wired Communications, it quickly became apparent that the projects I would be working on were nothing trivial: top of my list was designing the communications materials for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries.

MWC is acting as Secretariat for the group, and that meant that I would be designing a brand new website, managing social media outreach and collaborating with all the Parliamentarians involved.

It seemed a daunting task. Parliament is where it all happens, after all. Yet as a challenge it also seemed uniquely promising; we are helping to build a forum where people from all over the fisheries sector can meet and discuss the future of British fishing, with their voices heard by the people in power.

The real-world implications of my work on the APPG properly struck me upon my first visit to Westminster. We were meeting one of the Co-Chairs of the APPG, to talk about our work so far and to cement plans for going forwards. I had been communicating via email with the MPs involved, but a face-to-face meeting really hit home how invested these parliamentarians were in our work, which made it seem all the more worthwhile. The meeting was followed by an in-depth tour of Westminster, from the underground tunnel to the House of Commons itself: a chance to glean some understanding the intricate inner machinations of British government.

My internship is funded by the Fishmongers’ Company, one of the most ancient guilds of London, and I was keen to meet them personally. The opportunity came upon a visit to Fishmongers’ Hall, a magnificent building on the north bank of the Thames. Although the interior bears all the hallmarks of stately grandeur, there are a few differences that allude to its history; most obviously, oil paintings of freshly-caught fish take the place of the usual dour portraits. Far more engaging, in my opinion!

I was there to sit in on a meeting of the North Sea Advisory Council, on which Katrina (Director of MWC) sits as rapporteur. Made up of 60% industry leaders and 40% NGO representatives, it was certainly an instructive insight into how policy comes about: how invested parties from very different viewpoints go about reaching an agreement, how diplomacy is used to make discussions run smoothly, and of the crucial role of evidence in such decisions.

It was during a working trip to the Coastal Futures conference that I realised what might set this sector apart from others. Dedicated people were speaking on topics ranging far and wide, but the overall theme remained the same: our seas are worth protecting. Regardless of agenda, it’s bad news for everybody if they are overexploited. Perhaps this clarity of vision could be applied to other sectors that remain plagued by loggerheads.

My work with MWC and the Fishmongers’ Company has made me optimistic about the future of British fisheries, and I greatly hope that the lessons learned here can be applied elsewhere, for the benefit of as many as possible.