July 2016 – News

Illegal Fisherman Fined: A fisherman has been ordered by a court to pay back over £100,000 made through illegal fishing. Shane Barton, 42, from Plymouth had a history of illegal fishing and was handed a three month prison sentence (suspended for 24 months) and a 12 month supervision order. However, a confiscation order was used to ensure that he will pay back £104,147 which he made through illegal fishing activities. The Bournemouth Echo reported that he will have to pay back £5,000 out of his existing assets immediately or face the three month jail term, and after this the rest of the money will still have to be paid. Read the full Bournemouth Echo report here. This is not the first time that confiscation orders – a legal procedure designed to ensure that people do not profit from the proceeds of illegal activity – have been used against unscrupulous fishermen. In 2012 a number of Scottish skippers were given confiscation orders for sums as high as £425,000, as well as fines totalling £1,000,000 due to illegal catches of mackerel. In both cases the high value of the confiscation orders shows the huge sums which it is possible to make through illegal fishing.

Brexit and UK Fish Stocks: The fallout from the UK’s vote to leave the European Union has continued this month, with many newspapers and commentators speculating about the ways in which Britain will control its territorial waters once it has left the EU. The Telegraph reported that the French National Fisheries Committee was concerned that its fishing fleet would be denied access to British waters, and said that some French vessels were accustomed to taking up to eighty per cent of their catch within British waters. A spokesman for the committee said that some French fishing ports could close if they were banned or restricted from fishing in British waters. Read more by clicking here. However, Maria Damanaki, the former EU fisheries chief, stated that the belief the UK could control its own fishing grounds after leaving the EU was an “illusion,” arguing that historic fishing rights and the proximity of the UK to other nations meant that Britain would be unable to set its own quotas without input from EU nations. Read more about this here. However, Scottish fishermen had an alternative view to Ms. Damanaki. Despite Scotland as a whole voting overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union, Scottish fishermen have strongly backed Brexit as many believe that Scottish fishermen and coastal communities have been squeezed out as other EU nations have been given higher and higher quotas to fish in Scottish waters. While the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is calling for Scotland to remain in the EU Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation rejected this and said that he was “delighted and full of hope that Brexit will restore to the UK the normal rights and responsibilities for fishing … in their own sea space.” Read the full story here.

Bass Stocks Warning: Following the warnings over falling bass stocks in European waters ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) – the powerful body which sets scientific advice on Europe-wide fish quotas – stated that bass stocks had fallen to “dangerously low” levels and that the measures which have been brought in over the last few years have failed to halt the decline. They therefore advised that all bass fishing, both commercial and recreational, should be banned in 2017. While the advice remains non-legally binding it could be the case that all forms of bass fishing are banned in 2017 throughout the European Union. Read more on this issue here.

Tesco Removes John West Tuna: Tesco this month removed some John West tuna from its shelves over sustainability concerns. Since 2012 the supermarket chain has promised to only used line and pole caught tuna as this method of capture is sustainable, especially when compared to the damaging purse seine/fish aggregating device method which kills large numbers of other creatures such as sharks, turtle and marine mammals. Around twenty per cent of John West tuna lines were withdrawn, as Tesco said the company was not able to meet Tesco’s demands on sustainability as fast as they wanted. In 2011 John West said that all of its tuna would be sustainable by 2016, but Greenpeace found in 2015 that only around two per cent of John West tuna was sustainable, with the rest caught with destructive fishing practices. Read more on this story here. Following this news the Guardian ran an interesting article asking exactly what tuna is sustainable to eat. The article considers the species of tuna, the fishing method which is used to catch it and the location in which it is caught, read their article here.

Submarine Snags Trawler: A French trawler ran into trouble this month when its nets became snagged on a Portuguese submarine of the coast of Cornwall. The trawler Daytona was fishing around thirty miles off the Lizard, Cornwall while the Portuguese submarine NRP Tridente was taking part in a NATO exercise in the same area. At some point the submarine made contact with the nets of the trawler and immediately surfaced, with none of the crew of the Daytona being harmed in the incident. Read about the incident on the BBC News website by clicking here. Collisions between trawler’s nets and submarines can end in tragedy. In 1990 four Scottish fishermen lost their lives when the Royal Navy’s nuclear powered submarine HMS Trenchant snagged its nets in the Firth of Clyde. Five crew members of the French trawler Bugaled Breizh lost their lives when the vessel sank, also off the Cornish coast, in 2004. The loss of the vessel has never been definitively explained, although it is believed that it may be submarine related as a NATO exercise was also taking place at the time the vessel was lost. This month it was announced that a new inquiry would take place to try to establish exactly what happened to the Bugaled Breizh. Read more here.

African Fish Robbery: CNN turned its attention to the illegal fishing taking place off the coast of Africa, and the devastating consequences this can have on communities which rely on fishing for survival. CNN reported that illegal fishing in west African waters was costing local communities around $1.3 billion a year, with Russian and Chinese boats using flags of convenience to get around fishing regulations and take hundreds of thousands of tons of fish out of west African waters every year. The lack of regulation and enforcement had led to these waters becoming a “free for all” according to a report from the Overseas Development Institute which CNN quoted, and called for much better regulation including satellite tracking of vessels. Losing huge amounts of fish to foreign trawlers forces subsistence African fishermen to travel further out to sea to fish and fish in more dangerous waters, and failure to catch enough fish can lead to malnutrition and even starvation in parts of west Africa where people rely on fish as their primary source of protein. Read more on the CNN website here.

US Shark Tournaments: American monster shark tournaments are facing increasing pressure to reform as it becomes increasingly unacceptable to kill shark species – many of which are endangered – for sport, according to an article in the Guardian. These tournaments involve boat anglers fishing for a predetermined length of time and then returning to shore with the largest sharks they have caught. These sharks are then ceremonially weighed in front of a crowd of onlookers and the winner, who can be in line for a substantial prize worth up to $40,000, is determined. Species which are classed as either Endangered or Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, such as the porbeagle, shortfin mako and thresher shark are often the target. The organisers of shark tournaments say that they have brought in reforms: there is minimum weights (225lbs for thresher sharks), harpoons are banned and the parading of shark heads on the dockside has been banned. However, in these days of plummeting shark numbers any killing of large sharks (which are also the most fertile) is likely to come under increasing pressure to at least become catch and release only. Protesters have started to criticise and pressurise many of the big corporate companies who support the shark tournaments. Coca Cola, Budweiser, Home Depot, Miller Lite, Coors, Ford and Toyota have all been involved in either sponsporing or providing prizes for shark tournaments, and are likely to find themselves on the receiving end of very bad publicity if they continue to do so. Read the full article in the Guardian here.

Spanish Footballer Kills Baby Shark: A Spanish professional footballer faces investigation after killing a critically endangered juvenile angel shark on a Tenerife beach this month. Midfielder Marc Crosas, who plays for Segunda Division side CD Tenerife, appeared to spear the baby shark with a training pole, while team mates looked on. The species was identified as an angel shark, a species classed as Critically Endangered on a global basis by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, meaning it is at high risk of extinction in the near future. The club and the player both apologised for the incident, although the deputy mayor of the town where the incident happened did not appear to be appeased by the apology, stating that further action would be taken. Read more and see pictures of the incident by clicking here.

Microbeads Environmental Damage: The momentum to ban microbeads appears to be gathering pace, with the Daily Mail this month reporting on research carried out by the University of Plymouth which found that a single tube of some face washes containing up to 2.8 million individual microbeads. This means that a single face wash could release around 94,500 microbeads, which range in size from 0.001mm to 0.1mm in diameter. Microbeads find their way into the marine environment through the sewerage system as current treatment plants have no way of filtering out the tiny beads. Once in the sea microbeads are consumed by fish and are especially harmful to organisms which filter feed. There are fears that they could end up in the human food supply as larger fish such as haddock, cod, plaice and mackerel will eat smaller fish which may have microbeads inside them. The US already has a microbeads ban coming into force next year, and a number of UK retailers are phasing out products which contain them. A number of manufacturers are also stopping to make products with plastic microbeads in. Read the Daily Mail article here.

EU to Limit Deep Sea Fishing: The European Union is to limit deep sea fishing in the North East Atlantic to the area where it took place in 2009 to 2011 and also limit the depth fishermen can trawl at to 800 metres after MEP’s struck a deal at the start of this month. While the agreement is informal at the moment it is due to be ratified in November. Deep sea fishing is immensely damaging as the marine environment at extreme depths is fragile and can take decades to recover. Deep sea fish are also extremely long living and cannot reproduce until a late stage in their life – orange roughy for example are thought to have to be over thirty years old before they can spawn. In 2013 the European Parliament had the chance to ban deep sea trawling but the motion was narrowly defeated by 342 to votes to 326. The new limitation on deep sea fishing are therefore welcomed,although many will believe they do not go far enough. Read more here.

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