This month it news emerged that a secret seal cull was taking place in the UK, despite seals being protected by legislation which has been in place since 1970. The Daily Mirror ran a front page story on the 7th April revealing that hundreds of seals had been killed, mostly in Scotland, to protect the salmon stocks in fish farms. The cull is said to kill hundreds of seals every year, but the true number of seals killed could actually be much higher as there is little regulation or verification of how many seals are killed and total numbers are not recorded. The article also pointed out that seals are killed all year round, including in the breeding season. This means that it is inevitable that mother seals are killed and the weaning young seals will therefore be left to starve to death as they cannot feed themselves without their mother. The cull is allowed to take place as the protection of seals does not apply if they are a threat to fish stocks or fishing equipment. Read the full Daily Mirror article here.
This month there was much coverage of the news that warming seas could significantly change the fish which are found in the waters around the British Isles. It was reported that the rising sea temperatures will lead to species such as cod, haddock and sole migrating away from UK waters and being replaced by red mullet, John Dory and other species which are more common in warmer seas such as the Mediterranean. The BBC reported that as well as red mullet and John Dory species such as sardines, anchovies, gurnard, cuttlefish and squid would all become more common around the UK, which could lead to fundamental changes in the fish which are caught and consumed in Britain. Read more here.
A top London restaurant was investigated for selling shark fin soup this month. The exclusive Royal China Club in London’s West End came under the spotlight after it emerged that the restaurant was selling shark fin soup off menu, and the shark fins were being imported in suitcases as they would be confiscated if they were imported through the normal channels. Although shark fin is not illegal in the UK it must be declared and imported legally. The illegal shark fins were taken from the restaurant and destroyed. Read the Independent’s article on this story here.
In news which was compared to a scene for political comedy The Thick of It, it was confirmed this month that DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) had accidentally deleted legislation which gave IFCAs (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities) the power to investigate offences. IFCAs had been able to investigate issues such as the illegal catching of endangered species, commercial fishing in protected zones and using illegal fishing gear. However, in an attempt to streamline legislation a number of old acts were deleted, meaning they no longer have any legal status. It was believed that the IFCAs would be able to continue to carry out their role using the powers granted to them under the 1981 Fisheries Act. However, it transpired that this act granted IFCAs absolutely no power at all, meaning they had no authority to carry out the duties they were responsible for. While it would ordinarily be a simple case of changing the legislation again to grant the powers back to the IFCAs parliament has been in the pre-election ‘purdah’ period since the 30th March, meaning that no legislation can be passed. Despite this DEFRA claimed that they would be able to grant powers to IFCAs on an individual basis and claimed that no illegal fishing would go uninvestigated due to the mistake. The Independent reported on this story an the article can be viewed here.
Another British trawler was this month damaged when a nuclear submarine apparently collided with its nets. The trawler Karen was fishing off the coast of Northern Ireland when it was suddenly pulled backwards at a speed of around 10 knots (11.5 mph) and the crew were forced to cut the nets free, losing an estimated two tons of catch. In an interview with the BBC the skipper, Paul Murphy, said that he and his crew were lucky that no one was injured in the incident and around £10,000 of damage was caused to his boat. He believed that his boat could only be moved in such a way by a nuclear submarine colliding with its nets A similar incident happened last month when the Scottish trawler Aquarius had its nets tangled with a submarine when fishing off the Outer Hebrides. The increase in incidents of submarines apparently colliding with trawler’s nets is thought to be connected to the recent rising tensions between Russia and NATO nations, with the Russians now sending an increasing number of their submarines into the territorial waters of European nations. Read more about this incident and see pictures by clicking this link.
Pippa Middleton sparked anger this month with both conservation groups and the general public when she spoke positively about eating whale meat. She wrote that she ate “smoked whale carpaccio” while on a four day holiday to Norway and claimed that the meat tasted like smoked salmon. Conservation groups pointed out that commercial whaling is banned in European waters (although Norway ignores this) and that there is no humane way of harvesting whales, with explosive tipped harpoons being the main method of catching whales. It is not known exactly which species of whale Pippa Middleton consumed, although it is likely to be minke whale which is widely caught by the Norwegian whaling industry. Pippa Middleton’s comments were particularly embarrassing for the royal family as both Prince Charles and Prince William are noted conservationists, with Prince William announcing just this week that more needs to be done to stop the poaching and trading of endangered species throughout Europe. Read the Express’s article on this topic here.
Finally, two men were rescued from the sea after getting into difficulties when they tried to go fishing in a £9 home-made boat off the Essex coast. The boat was made out of scrap plywood, loft insulation, coat hangers and silicone adhesive. The men had successfully caught fish around 200 metres away from the shore but got into difficulties when they decided to head back to land and their oars snapped, leaving them helpless and liable to getting swept out to sea. The men were rescued by Clacton RNLI and did not require hospital treatment. Read more here.