Claims that EU nations ‘could catch fish before they get to British waters’: The Express claimed this month that EU nations could carry out unsustainable fishing just to “stick two fingers up” to UK fishermen after Brexit. Currently many EU nations rely fish caught in British waters to keep their fishing industries profitable, and the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy gives them the right to do this. However, after Brexit Britain will have the opportunity to take back control of its own waters and foreign fishing vessels will have no automatic right to fish there. Many EU fishermen are distraught at this, with some saying they could go out of business without access to UK waters. Quoting an unnamed ‘EU diplomat’ the Express claimed that EU nations could catch fish “earlier when they’re smaller, so they won’t even get to British waters” if they were banned from accessing British fishing grounds. Such short-sighted and vindictive actions would be highly damaging for fish stocks across Europe and negatively impact on all European fishing industries. Read more by clicking here.
Britain will have to observe EU fishing quotas during transitional period: Before Christmas Theresa May had encouraging news for the British fishing industry when she said that the UK was going to leave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy soon after formally leaving the European Union in March 2019. This would mean that Britain would regain its territorial waters and no longer have to follow EU rules and allow foreign vessels to fish within British waters. However, two articles in the Guardian this month have cast doubt on this. Firstly, the it was reported that the EU would “hold Britain to fishing quotas” during the full two year transitional period between 2019 and 2021. This would be particularly hard for British fishermen to take as they would have to follow the full range of EU rules and quotas and allow foreign fishing boats into UK territorial waters but, as Britain will have officially left the EU, the UK will have no say in setting the rules which they must observe. The second article in the Guardian said that Norway, itself a non-EU country which does not have to follow the Common Fisheries Policy, backed the move to keep British fishermen following the CFP rules for a twenty-one month transition period after leaving the EU in 2019. While Norway is not a member of the EU it holds talks with the European Commission over fish stocks at the annual meeting and will be an influential voice in the debates over how Britain manages its fisheries once it leaves the EU. It is important to note that no decisions over how Britain will manage its fish stocks after it leaves the EU have been made at present, and prominent Brexit-supporting politicians such as Environment Secretary Michael Gove, along with fishermen’s organisations remain clear that Britain will take back control of its fishing grounds shortly after the country leaves the EU.
European Parliament votes to ban pulse trawling: Pulse trawling is an extremely controversial method of commercial fishing which uses electricity to shock fish out of soft seabeds and into the nets of trawlers. Proponents of the method – which was developed and promoted by the Dutch fishing industry – claim that it causes less damage to the marine environment and reduces bycatch. However, critics argue that there has been little research carried out into the medium to long-term impact that fishing with electricity causes to the marine environment, and there is evidence that species such as cod are negatively affected by pulse trawling. It is also claimed that the significant fuel savings pulse trawling offers (as the gear is lighter than traditional trawl gear) is the real reason why commercial fishermen are so keen to press ahead with this method of fishing. Presently fishing with electricity if officially banned in European waters by the EU, but a series of increasingly generous exemptions for ‘research purposes’ have allowed mainly Dutch commercial fishermen to hugely expand the number of vessels equipped with pulse fishing gear in their fleet. This month there was a vote in the European Parliament over whether pulse trawling should be allowed to expand throughout European waters and essentially become a mainstream method of commercial fishing. Prior to the vote a coalition of environmental groups and low-impact fishermen’s organisations banded together to call on the European Parliament to vote against pulse trawling, calling it “destructive.” A group of two-hundred top chefs also called for the practice to be banned, saying that they were united in agreeing not to use any pulse trawl caught fish in any of their restaurants. Christopher Coutanceau, a French chef who owns a restaurant in La Rochelle which has two Michelin stars said “We refuse to work with seafood coming from a fishing method that condemns our future and that of the ocean” Read more on this here. The vote in the European Parliament took place on the 16th of January, and with the European Commission enthusiastically promoting pulse trawling many people believed that the MEP’s would vote through the legislation to approve the expansion of this method of commercial fishing. However, in the end MEPs voted by 402 to 232 in favour of banning pulse trawling, with the BBC reporting that there were “cheers and applause” when the result of the vote was announced. However, the vessels which are equipped with pulse fishing gear will be able to continue fishing until the new regulations come into force. Read more by clicking here.
Deep sea fish rarely seen by humans wash up on Scottish beach: A number of fish usually found in the very deepest waters around the British Isles have washed up on a Scottish beach. Members of the public found the fish on the beach at St Cyrus in Aberdeenshire and reported the unusual species to the St Cyrus National Nature Reserve. There were ten species found in all, including common fangtooth, black scabbardfish and species of viperfish. All of the species found are true deep sea fish which live in depth of well over a thousand metres and are very rarely encountered by humans. The mystery of how such deep sea fish appeared on a Scottish beach was explained when it was discovered that they had been caught by marine scientists conducting a research trawl in the deep waters of the Faroe-Shetland Channel off the northern coast of Scotland – one of the few places in the British Isles which provides the depth of water needed for these species to live. Read more and see pictures of the fish by clicking here.
The International Game Fish Association ‘incentivises anglers to catch endangered species’: An article in the Independent has accused the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) of incentivising anglers to catch some of the most endangered species in the world such as great white sharks and overfished tuna species. The IGFA is the world authority for ratifying and keeping records of the largest fish which have been caught around the world. Founded in 1939 the Florida-based organisation is not for profit and also works with conservationists and marine biologists to protect the marine environment and promote conservation. However, it has been heavily criticised for awarding weight-based records for fish, meaning that any fish that is caught and put forward for a world record has to be killed so it can be accurately weighed. The article in the Independent stated that ninety species of fish on the IGFA’s world record database are classified as Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and that killing the largest species was the damaging to stocks as the bigger fish are the most fertile and produce the most young. There are now calls for the IGFA to only recognise length-based records for fish, meaning that fish can be measured and photographed and then returned to the sea. In response to the criticism the IGFA said that around half of the 500 to 600 claims they receive each year are for fish that have been returned alive to the sea, and only a very small number of claims were for endangered species. Click here to read more on this story.
US fishermen escape boat crash by seconds: A group of anglers escaped with their lives by seconds after a much larger vessel violently smashed into their boat. Bryan Maess was fishing on his 20ft boat in the mouth of the River Columbia in Oregon with two friends when Marlin Lee Larsen’s 31ft speedboat began heading towards them. The three men in the smaller boat frantically try to signal to Larsen, but it soon becomes apparent that Larsen’s boat isn’t stopping and Maess and his friends are forced to jump into the water to escape, just seconds before the two vessels collide. Maess and his two friends were all injured in the incident and there are claims that Larsen was on his phone when the crash happened. Larsen says he was not using his phone but could not see the fishing boat because of his seated position. Since the incident Larsen has been charged with reckless endangerment and reckless operation and assault, and has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Maess and his two friends have also filed lawsuits against him. The incident happened in August last year, but the footage (which was captured on a GoPro camera) has only been released this month. See the incident on the BBC website by clicking here.
Donald Trump is terrified of sharks: It was widely reported in the media this month that US president Donald Trump is terrified of sharks. This was already known as he had tweeted in 2013 that he was “just not a fan of sharks.” However, this month an adult film actress called Stormy Daniels claimed to have had an affair with Trump in 2006 and provided further details on his fear of sharks. The Guardian reported that she said he was “obsessed” and “terrified” of sharks and “hope[d] that all sharks die.” The Guardian pointed out that only eighty-four people were attacked by sharks in 2016, and people are more likely to die from “a bicycle accident, lightning strike, mauling by alligator or bear, dog bite, fireworks, tornado, wasp or bee sting, legal execution, fall from a bed, or an asteroid” than from a shark attack. A few days later the Guardian reported that charity donations to shark conservation charities had risen significantly since the news of Trump’s fear of sharks made the news.
Australian free diver has diving fin is bitten off by great white shark: An Australian man had a lucky escape after a great white shark bit off his diving fin. Callum Stewart was diving off Martin Island to the south of Sydney when he felt a creature bump into him from behind. He expected it to be a seal but was shocked to see that it was in fact a great white shark. In the shock of seeing the shark he did not realise that the shark had bitten the one metre long fin off his left foot and still had it in its mouth. Mr. Stewart was able to scramble to a nearby rock and then make it to the safety of his boat before the shark returned. Shark expert Dr. Vic Dr Peddemors believes that the shark may have taken a “test bite” to see if Mr. Stewart was a source of food. Click here to read more and see pictures of the incident.
Huge bull shark caught in Australian river: Two men caught a 330lb (150kg) bull shark in the Georges River in Sydney. The shark was caught at Ravesby, New South Wales from a place approximately five miles inland from Botany Bay. The catch drew surprise due to how far inland such a large shark was caught. Bull sharks are one of the most aggressive species of shark in the world and are noted for their ability to live in waters with a very low salinity level. Read more and see pictures of the shark by clicking here.
Study shows worrying downturn in North Sea small species: New research carried out on small forage species found in the North Sea, such as sandeels, sprats and herring, has found that stocks have declined significantly in recent decades. Scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark found that since the mid-1990s such species had reduced in length and weight, and were having fewer young. Reduced levels of zooplankton caused by climate change are thought to be the main reason for the reduction, although these are the species which are also being intensively harvested by commercial fisheries to provide feed for the booming aquaculture and fish farming sector. Dwindling numbers of these smaller species will have devastating impacts on the wider North Sea marine ecosystem, and for Danish fisheries alone the capture of small fish represents a billion dollar industry in itself. Click here to read more on this story.
Dog deaths caused by shellfish poisoning: A number of dogs have died after eating shellfish washed up on beaches across Norfolk and Suffolk. Two dogs have died from paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and others have become seriously ill. PSP is a naturally occurring bio-toxin created by algae and ingested by shellfish when they filter feed. Tests by Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) have verified that PSP is present in shellfish found on the beaches and is the likely cause of the dog’s deaths. The Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority have confirmed that there is a low level of risk to beach users and their pets, although there is no risks from PSP being present in seawater. Simple precautions such as keeping dogs on leads and preventing them from eating anything they find on the beach in affected areas should be taken. Read the Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority information on this issue by clicking here.
Did a humpback whale save a diver from a tiger shark?: A marine biologist claims to have been saved from a tiger shark by a humpback whale. Nan Hauser, a marine biologist, was in the water off the Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean when the incident, which was captured on film, happened. She says that the 50,000lb humpback whale pushed her with its head and mouth, sheltered her under its pectoral fin and, in scenes that were not caught on film, lifted her out of the water while another humpback whale slapped its tail in the water to ward off the 15ft tiger shark. While Hauser is sure the whales were saving and protecting her others have questioned this, pointing out that humpback whales often interact with humans. The tiger shark is not visible in the video. Watch the video on YouTube here to decide for yourself.
Controversy over New Zealand fishing industry attempts to censor bycatch images: The fishing industry in New Zealand has sparked controversy by requesting that the public are blocked from seeing pictures of dolphins, seals, sea lions and penguins caught and killed by commercial fishing boats. The New Zealand government is proposing to fit CCTV cameras to all deep sea fishing vessels so that catches can be accurately calculated and bycatch levels and dumping of fish can be monitored. Images from the cameras on fishing vessels can be viewed by the media and the general public as they have to be released if a request is made via New Zealand’s Official Information Act (which is the equivalent of the UK’s Freedom of Information Act). However, a letter from five leaders of the New Zealand seafood industry to the country’s government has requested that the commercial fishing industry becomes exempt from releasing images taken at sea as it would be “a significant risk … for New Zealand Inc.” and also said that there were issues over employees privacy and trade secrets being exposed. Campaigners have said that this is a clear attempt by the New Zealand commercial fishing industry to hide the damage that their actions do to non-target species. Yellow-eye penguins and Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins are all threatened species with commercial bycatch seen as a major reason why their numbers have fallen. Kevin Hague, the chief executive of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand told the Guardian “What they [the seafood industry] are saying is catching endangered penguins, dumping entire hauls of fish overboard and killing Hector’s dolphins looks really bad on TV. Well, the solution is to stop doing it, not to hide the evidence.” Read more on this story here.
Expert says that disused oil rigs should provide safe havens for marine life: A senior lecturer at Aberdeen University has said that oil rigs should not be decommissioned and removed when they are no longer in use. Instead they should be left in the sea to provide a safe haven for marine life. The claim was made by Tom Baxter, who said that leaving oil rigs in place would also help preserve the marine organisms and colonies which had built up around the installations and save billions of pounds which could be spent on renewable energy instead. Currently companies who use oil rigs and install oil pipelines are required to pay to remove then at the end of their economic life. Read more here.
Areas of the sea are being starved of oxygen creating dead zones: An article in the Guardian this month stated that oxygen deprivation was starving areas of the world’s seas and oceans of oxygen and creating dead zones. The number of zero-oxygen dead zones has quadrupled since the 1950s, while low-oxygen areas have increased tenfold. Climate change causes dead zones as warmer water holds less oxygen, while fertiliser runoff, sewage and pollution can significantly add to the problem. The warning comes after research was published in the journal Science which outlined the extent of the problem. There is hope that dead zones can be stopped through reducing carbon emissions and slowing down (and eventually reversing) climate change – in Chesapeake Bay in the US and the Thames in London have been dead zones disappear after improved farming and sewage control methods were introduced. However, there are fears that climate change in general and dead zones in particular are not high enough up the political agenda and the potentially huge impact of dead zones is not fully acknowledged. Click here to read more on this story.
Controversy over 1089lb blue marlin caught and killed off coast of Australia: A group of friends caught the largest blue marlin ever in Australian waters, but have been heavily criticised for killing the fish rather than tagging and releasing it. The marlin was caught off the coast of Exmouth, Western Australia on New Year’s Day, and at 1089lb (494kg) broke the previous record for a blue marlin caught in Australian waters which was set in 1999 and came in at 996lb (452kg). The fish was caught around 25 miles (40km) from the shore and a crane had to be used to load the marlin onto a trailer so it could be taken away to be officially weighed and verified. Clay Hilbert, the man who caught the fish with skipper Eddy Lawler said that the marlin would be used for science, research and educational purposes. However, news outlets and social media users across the world have voiced their disgust at the killing of the marlin, with some likening it to killing an elephant. The outcry over the killing shows the way in which anglers are coming under increasing scrutiny for their actions when it comes to killing large trophy fish to claim records, and underlines the fact that public opinion in turning against this practice. Read more and see pictures of the blue marlin by clicking here. An opinion piece on the Australian ABC News website which was in favour of killing the marlin was published a few days later. Written by Jim Harnwell, a “fishing magazine editor and publisher for 20 years” who is now “employed in the fisheries management sector,” the article argued that killing the fish was “ok” as 96% of marlin caught by anglers are released and the fish would stimulate interest in big game fishing in the area and put Exmouth “on the map.” Read his article by clicking here.
US cold snap leads to thresher shark deaths: The east coast of the US and Canada is faced some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded this month, with even parts of Florida seeing snow for the first time since 1989, and at least seventeen people losing their lives due to the cold snap. Shark species were also faring badly in the freezing temperatures, with four large thresher sharks washing up dead along the coastline of Massachusetts. Scientists do not know what killed the sharks with some theories proposing that plunging water temperature proved fatal for the sharks, while others believe that they beached themselves while trying to migrate to warmer waters. Click here to read more on this story on the Sky News site.
This month there has been an absolute deluge of stories about plastic pollution, as this issue well and truly went mainstream across Britain (and the world’s) media. Read some of the most important stories on this topic below:
- Theresa May declares ‘war on plastics’ in environment speech: Much of the news on plastic pollution in the seas and oceans was sparked by Theresa May’s environment speech, in which she referred to plastic pollution as “one of the great environmental scourges of our time.” The speech included policy announcements such as a long-term plan to eradicate plastic waste by 2042, the 5p charge for plastic bags being extended to smaller shops which were previously exempt, support for developing countries to reduce plastic pollution and encouraging supermarkets to have plastic free aisles. It was also revealed that the government was looking into bringing in a tax or charge on takeaway containers, disposable plastic cutlery and disposable coffee cups which are notoriously difficult to recycle. However, environmental groups such as Greenpeace criticised the speech, and pointed out that there are few laws being proposed to compel companies and organisations producing plastic to stop or change to alternatives. Read more here.
- Criticism of May’s speech and government policy continues: In the days following May’s speech the criticism continued. While there was consensus that the government was taking the right action many criticised the timescale, especially the 2042 target, which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said was “far too long” to take action. Greenpeace said that a twenty-five month target was necessary, rather than the twenty-five years proposed by the governemnt, and Friends of the Earth said that a “clear timetable” was needed. Read more here.
- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says the government is a ‘deserter’ in its own war on plastic: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the celebrity chef who had huge success with his Fish Fight campaign, has added to the criticism of the government in an article in the Guardian. Fearnley-Whittingstall said that the equivalent of a truck full of plastic (most of it packaging) enters our oceans every minute, meaning that immediate action was required. He said the twenty-five year deadline the government had imposed to phase out plastics “spells doom for many species … and probably entire ecosystems.” However, he praised the supermarket chain Iceland for its pledge to remove plastic from its packaging of its own brand products. While this would only affect around one thousand products it would put pressure on other supermarkets to follow and would show that problems with plastic pollution could be solved by actively taking action. In the article he also urged to government to impose a 25p charge on hard-to-recycle disposable coffee cups and introduce the proposed plastic bottle deposit scheme, pointing to the near 100% recycling rate this had led to when it was introduced in Germany. Read the full article by clicking here.
- Plastic pollution to be recycled into kayaks: Plastic waste is being gathered up across beaches in the south west of England and recycled into new products such as kayaks. The scheme is taking place across Devon and Cornwall and is designed to show that harmful plastic waste and be transformed into useful products. The plastic waste is transported to recycling centres at eleven harbours across the south west where it is turned into pellets and then moulded into products, including kayaks. The BBC reported that some of the kayaks made of the recycled plastic will be given to community groups and used to help clean up beaches. Read more on this story by clicking here.
- Plastic industry ‘knew 50 years ago it was causing a pollution crisis and hid it from the world’: The Daily Mail reported this month on news that the plastics industry knew over fifty years ago that the products there were creating had a significant impact on the planet, but decided to cover this up. The paper made the claim based on research conducted by Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL) which stated that the plastics industry became aware of the damage plastics could cause in the 1960s and held “workshops and conferences actively discussing the issue and how to deal with it” in the 1970s. However, in a move similar to that of the tobacco industry, they chose to “oppose sustainable solutions” and “fought regulation.” This news was included in a larger article which looked at the issue of plastic pollution in the seas and oceans today. The Daily Mail reported that lobbyists from the plastics industry met the Environment Minister Dr Therese Coffey in October for a round table discussion. The discussion took place under Chatham House Rules which means what was said at the meeting can be openly discussed but the identity of those speaking will not be released. The Daily Mail stated that the lobbyists were trying to convince the minister that a deposit scheme for plastic bottles was a bad idea as “the environmental impact of packaging was low on consumers’ priorities when buying a soft drink.” What was said at the discussion came to light after a freedom of information request from Greenpeace, who said that the plastic lobbyists were wrong, and that surveys showed that over three quarters of UK consumers favour a bottle deposit scheme. Recently Tesco has stated that it now backs a plastic bottle deposit scheme (see news below). Read more by clicking here.
- BBC blunder in Blue Planet II plastic packaging: The BBC have been criticised in the Independent after a poster about plastic pollution linked to the series came wrapped in single use plastic. The poster was produced by the Open University in conjunction with the BBC and accompanied the hugely acclaimed documentary Blue Planet II, and could be ordered from the internet. Despite being delivered in a single use plastic wrapper the poster warned of the “fatal” effects of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems and said that people had to be ready for the “global challenge” which plastic pollution posed. The Open University said that recyclable plastic was used for the packaging of the poster. The BBC refused to comment. Click here to read more on this story. Following this the Daily Mail reported that the DVD of Blue Planet II came in a plastic case which was then wrapped in cellophane film, leading to further criticism. Read more on this story here.
- Microbeads now banned from cosmetic products to protect marine life: A ban on the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetic products in the UK came into force this month covering rinse-off cosmetic and care products such as toothpastes, shower gels and facewashes. Manufacturers will now no longer be able to add microbeads to such products, although the ban on actually selling them will not come into force until later this year to allow retailers to sell through stock which they have already bought in. Environment minister Therese Coffey MP said “Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available … I am delighted that from today cosmetics manufacturers will no longer be able to add this harmful plastic to their rinse-off products.” Microbeads are so damaging to the marine environment as they are too small to be filtered out water which passes through sewage and filtration plants, and once in the sea they will not biodegrade taking hundreds, or even thousands, of years to break down. Taking a single shower can release tens of thousands of microbeads into the sea. There is growing evidence that fish and shellfish are ingesting increasing levels of microbeads. Shellfish which feed by filtering seawater have been found in British waters with plastic particles inside them. The ban on microbeads – which is one of the strictest in the world – is a positive step for the marine environment. Read more on this story by clicking here.
- BBC ask what impact the microbead ban will have: An article on the BBC website looked into the impact that the microbead ban would actually have. The article stated that microbeads are not a major cause of plastic pollution in the world’s seas and oceans, accounting for somewhere between 0.01% and 4.1% of overall plastic pollution. The trade body which represents cosmetics manufacturers also stated that they were at “virtually zero” in terms of how many plastic microbeads were used in products on sale in the UK, as manufacturers had been phasing them out on a voluntary basis since 2014. Exfoliating beads made from natural, biodegradable sources such as oats, nuts, seeds, coffee beans and salt will still be allowed in products sold in the UK, but biodegradable plastics which some countries will still allow will not be. Glitter contained in cosmetic products will be banned, but glitter sold for use in arts and crafts will not. Friends of the Earth welcomed the ban but said that it was “piecemeal” and didn’t do enough to cover the bigger picture of plastic pollution from paint, textiles, bottles and packaging. Click here to read the full article.
- Which other household products cause damage to the marine environment?: With microbeads now banned in rinse-off cosmetics the Independent asked which other products can harm to the marine environment. Cotton buds were named as one of the most prevalent forms of ocean pollution, with manufacturer Johnson & Johnson saying they will replace the plastic design of the cotton buds they manufacture with a biodegradable paper one. Teabags are another product which causes pollution as they are not, as many people believe, fully biodegradable. Around 20% of a teabag is made of plastic which is used to heat seal the bags closed. For this reason they will not fully break down once they are disposed of. Plastic drinking straws are another major cause of marine pollution, with hundreds of millions being used and disposed of each day across the world. A number of UK bars and restaurants – most notably Wetherspoons – have pledge to reduce the amount of straws they use by not automatically putting them in customers drinks and switching from plastic to paper straws. Cigarette butts were another major cause of pollution as they can take fifteen years to break down, while sun cream can also be bad for the marine environment as it contains chemicals which have been linked to increasing coral bleaching. Read the full article on the Independent’s website by clicking here.
- Iceland to phase out plastic packaging of its own products: The supermarket chain Iceland has said that it will phase out plastics in all of its own brand products within five years – a landmark announcement which may well convince other supermarkets to follow suit. Instead of plastic Iceland will use paper and pulp trays and paper bags. Read more by clicking here.
- Lego lost off Cornish coast in 1997 washes up on Cumbrian beach: A piece of Lego which was believe to have been lost off the coast of Cornwall twenty years ago has washed up on a beach in Cornwall. The Lego was lost in 1997 when the German container ship Tokio Express was struck by a freak wave twenty miles off Land’s End, causing the vessel to tip sixty-two containers into the sea. One of the containers held hundreds of thousands of pieces of Lego. The Daily Mail (which confusingly states that 1997 was seventeen years ago) reports that much of this washed up on beaches across the south west of England over the following years. However, this month a piece of the Lego in the shape of a cactus-like plant washed up hundreds of miles away in Cumbria. The fact that the Lego was in near-perfect condition after being in the sea for two decades and travelling hundreds of miles vividly demonstrates how durable and long-lasting plastic is when it enters the world’s seas and oceans. Read more on this story here.
- EU also declares war on plastic waste: The Guardian reported that the EU has also ‘declared war on plastic waste’ and aims to ensure that over half of the packaging on the continent is recyclable by the year 2030. The EU’s plastic strategy will involve changing people behaviour so that they use less plastic, potentially introduce charges for using damaging plastics and begin research to modernise the production of plastics. Other initiatives include making it easier to get access to tap water or drinking fountains on streets so that there is less reliance on plastic bottles for drinking water. The article in the Guardian also suggested that the EU could use some kind of plastic charge or tax to plug the £13 billion that it will lose when Britain leaves the European Union. Read more here.
- Supermarkets under pressure to reveal the amount of plastic they create: The continuing news on plastic pollution has led to calls for supermarkets to tell consumers the real amount of plastic packaging they create each year, and pay more towards its safe disposal. When asked by the Guardian all of the major supermarkets said that information on the amount of plastic packaging they generated was “commercially sensitive” and refused to release figures. Politicians such as Labour’s Mary Creagh and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas said that the government should act to force supermarkets to reveal the amount of plastic they produced each year. The Guardian reported that the figure was around one million tons. Click here to read more.
- Tesco backs plastic bottle deposit scheme: Tesco has become the first major supermarket to say that it backs a plastic bottle deposit scheme. Such an initiative would see an additional charge on plastic bottles that is refunded when the bottles are returned to be recycled. Such schemes have seen plastic bottle recycling rates reach 95% in Germany and the Netherlands, compared to 57% in the UK. Supermarkets in the UK have been reluctant to back deposit schemes, fearing it would hit sales, so Tesco’s move is something of a breakthrough. However, with no legal backing compelling supermarkets to take part in deposit schemes in Theresa May’s speech, supermarkets will be free to ignore such measures if they wish. Read more here.
- Microplastic pollution around Orkney Islands is as bad as industrialised areas: A worrying story emerged when it was found that microplastic pollution in the remote waters of the Orkney Islands is as bad as that in industrialised areas such as the Firth of Forth. Scientists from Heriot-Watt University and the Orkney Islands Council took sediment samples around the remote, sheltered Scapa Flow and compared them to those taken from the densely populated Clyde and Firth of Forth. Microplastic pollution was found in all samples, and shows that due to the ways in which microplastics are carried by tides and currents , remoteness is no protection from this form of pollution. Further research in both areas is set to be carried out later this year. Read more by clicking here.
- Prince Charles says the world turned a ‘blind eye’ to plastic pollution: Prince Charles – long known for his campaigning on environmental issues – has expressed his “deep frustration” that “the world was seemingly just turning a blind eye to this mounting evidence” [of plastic pollution]. He was speaking at the International Sustainability Unit at the British Academy which was established in 2010 to fight to protect the natural environment. While acknowledging the huge challenge that plastic pollution of the world’s seas and oceans posed he did express optimism that the issue was now “very much on the global agenda.” Read more on the Sky News website by clicking here.
- In final plastic pollution related news: Asian food restaurant Wagamama’s said that they would be phasing out plastic straws in their restaurants, while Wetherspoons, one of the UK’s largest pub chains, fulfilled its promise of ditching plastic straws and began using biodegradable paper straws this month. Following a successful trial last year the indie and dance music festival Bestival said that it was banning plastic straws when it takes place in late summer this year. The Balearic Islands said that they were banning single use consumer plastics in a bid to protect their beaches. The legislation on plastics is some of the most stringent in the world and will be in force by 2020. Canada has also brought in a ban on cosmetic products containing microbeads, and the Scottish government has pledged to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic cotton buds. The seemingly innocuous products are regularly listed as one of the most commonly found sources of ocean plastic pollution. The Scottish government also set an ambitious target of banning the use of all single use plastics in the nation by the end of the next decade.