EU Referendum: The result of Britain’s membership of the European Union was decided this month, with Britain voting to leave by a margin of 52% to 48%. This has caused political turbulence on an unprecedented scale with Prime Minister David Cameron announcing that he is standing down and the Scottish National Party demanding another referendum on Scotland becoming an independent nation. While many areas of trade and industry campaigned to remain in the EU the vast majority of the fishing industry voted to leave, as European rules on fishing, namely the much-criticised Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), have been blamed for the decline in Europe’s fish stocks and corresponding decline in the numbers of people employed in the commercial fishing industry. Leaving the European Union will give Britain the chance to break free of the CFP and set its own rules about the level of commercial fishing which happens in UK waters in a similar way to Norway and Iceland – two nations which are not members of the EU or signed up the CFP and have the richest fishing grounds in Europe. Read British Sea Fishing’s article about the Common Fisheries Policy here, and read a Daily Mail article on the commercial fishing industries reaction to Brexit here. The EU-supporting Guardian, however, warned that Brexit would not necessarily mean that British fishermen would get bigger catches, as existing agreements of fish stocks and quotas may still be enforced.
No Bass Catches in 2017?: At the end of June the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), the organisation which sets the guidance levels of commercial catches, recommended that there should be zero bass catches in 2017. This would apply to both commercial and recreational fisheries. ICES stated that recruitment (the number of fish reaching adulthood) had been poor since 2008 and that the restriction is needed to restore stocks. Such a move would be hugely controversial coming straight after the restrictions which have been in place in during 2016, although it is unclear how this would affect recreational rod and line anglers – catch and release fishing may still be allowed. Read the ICES document by clicking here.
Icelandic Fisheries: This month the BBC took a look at what could be achieved by a European fishery which was not independent of the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy. Iceland has long been linked with applying to join the EU but withdrew their application in 2015 as joining would mean sharing their fishing grounds with all of the other EU member states – something Icelanders are not prepared to do. As Iceland are free to set their own quotas and manage their fishery in the way they see fit they have been able to restore stocks and highly commercial species such as cod and haddock and ensure that all fishing takes place on a sustainable basis. Their fishery is so healthy that they do not need to pay subsidies to prop up loss making fishing businesses like the EU does or cut morally dubious deals with impoverished African nations to fish in their waters, something the EU has just done with a new four-year deal to fish off the coast of Mauritania (see EU Exporting Overfishing section below). The health and strength of Iceland’s fishing industry shows what Britain could achieve outside of the EU and the CFP. Read the BBC article here.
Brexit Fishing Boat Protest: On 15th June, during the run up to the referendum, a flotilla of fishing boats travelled along the River Thames to support the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union and highlight the plight of the UK’s commercial fishermen. The flotilla – organised by the Fishing for Leave group and led by UKIP leader Nigel Farage – was set to contain around thirty-five boats and was timed to pass by the Houses of Parliament just after Prime Ministers Questions had finished. While the fishing boats did reach the Houses of Parliament there was an attempt by Irish multi-millionaire one-hit-wonder singer Bob Geldof to intercept the fishing boats with his own pro-EU group of dinghies and small boats. Geldof used a loudspeaker to call Nigel Farage a “fraud” and said he was “no fisherman’s friend” while Farage responded by stating that Geldof was “mocking” impoverished fishermen. Read more and see a video of the incident here.
UK National Fish Vote Result: The result of the vote to find the UK’s national fish was announced with month on the BBC’s Springwatch programme, with brown trout easily beating the other species to be crowned the winner with a huge 21% of the vote. The stickleback came in second place with 16% and the third, fourth, fifth and sixth places were all taken by freshwater species. Basking shark came in seventh – the highest ranked saltwater species, while sea bass (4%), cod (3%) and mackerel (2%) made up the rest of the top ten. British Sea Fishing had backed flounder, a species which didn’t even make the top ten. See the full result here.
Sea Fishing and Safety: The RNLI warned anglers and walkers about the dangers of the sea this month, after it was revealed that 168 people accidentally drowned around the coast of the UK last year, with the vast majority being people who had no intention of going into the water. The Guardian ran this story and focussed on the tragic death of 23-year-old Mike Bindon. He died in January 2014 when he and a friend went fishing off a mark on the Cornish coast, but Mike was swept out to sea by a freak wave. His body was never found. Advice for staying safe includes never turning your back on the sea, avoiding unstable ground such as cliff edges and anglers are also advised to wear a small life jacket or floatation device. Read the full Guardian article here.
Microplastic Pollution: Microplastics – the tiny pieces of plastic which are found in the world’s seas and oceans – could be to blame for the decline of fish populations according to research Uppsala University in Sweden. The research was carried out by Dr Oona Lönnstedt who found that immature fish exposed to microplastics would often eat the plastic instead of their natural source of food which would lead to stunted growth and a reduced ability to escape predators. Microplastics are found in cosmetic products such as face washes, scrubs and shower gels, but can also be formed when larger pieces of plastic begin to break down once it is in the sea. With around eight million tons of plastic pollution added to the world’s seas every year microplastics are set to be a growing problem. Read more by clicking here.
Shark Attack: A British grandmother was killed off the coast of Australia by a great white shark this month, the second fatal attack in the space of less than a week. Doreen Collyer, 60, was originally from Chester and was diving at a popular spot around twenty miles north of Perth when the attack happened. Mrs. Collyer was an experienced diver and was diving with a 43-year-old friend. Three fishermen went to assist Mrs. Collyer when they saw that she was in trouble and reported seeing a great white shark which was bigger than the 18-ft long boat they were on. While Mrs. Collyer was taken out of the water she died before they could make it back to shore. Three days earlier surfer Ben Gerring died in hospital after losing his leg below the knee after a great white shark attack at a nearby area called Falcon Beach. It is not currently known if the same animal is responsible for both attacks. Read more on this story here.
Artificial Reef Created: An Airbus A300 was deliberately sunk in the Aegean Sea to create an artificial reef to attract marine wildlife and vegetation. The 53-metre long aircraft had reached the end of its serviceable life and was bought by the local government in Ayd?n Province, Turkey for around £65,000. They then arranged for the aircraft to be floated out to sea (in front of bemused tourists) and sunk. Once it settles on the seabed the shelter and protection the plane offers will attract fish, and in turn tourists and divers. Read more and see pictures here -54-metre long airbus A300 is deliberately sunk off the coast of Turkey to create an articficial reef to attract marine life and tourists. Read on the Daily Mail website here.
Mediterranean Sea Trawling Ban: Seabed trawling is to be banned in parts of the heavily overfished Mediterranean Sea in an attempt to rebuild fish stocks. The General Fisheries Committee of the Mediterranean agreed that an area of almost 15000 square kilometres would be closed to fishing between Malta, Italy and Tunisia, as the area is an important nursery area for commercially important species such as hake and rose shrimp. While there are still many issues with overfishing in the Mediterranean the fact that so many countries have come together to agree on limits to trawling in a specific area offers encouragement that other areas may also be offered the same protection. Read more by clicking here.
European Union Exporting Overfishing: The European Union was accused of exporting overfishing to poor countries in the developing world, after a new four year deal was signed to allow EU vessels to fish in the waters of Mauritania, an impoverished nation in western Africa. Around one hundred EU fishing vessels will be able to fish in the nations waters, with Mauritania getting funding for its own fishing communities in return. The European Union has brokered deals for fishing rights with Mauritania since the later 1980s, with the controversial Irish super trawler Atlantic Dawn being able to fish in African waters due to the agreement. However, the deals between the rich EU and the poor African nation – where around a fifth of the population live on less than 88p a day – is highly controversial. While the EU says that money is put into job creation and tackling illegal fishing in Mauritanian waters organisations such as Greenpeace state that the small-scale fishermen in Mauritanian see very little of that money and have to compete with giant trawlers which can catch up to 250 tons of fish in a day – the same amount which fifty-six traditional African fishing boats would take a year to catch. The deal is also controversial as it proves that the EU’s own fishing waters, which should be some of the richest in the world, no longer have enough fish to supply the EU’s own fishing fleet, and therefore foreign waters must be used to allow Europe’s fishing boats to remain financially viable. Read the full story in the Guardian here.
Scottish Council Weever Fish Warning: A Scottish council issued a bizarre warning because a single weever fish was spotted on a beach. South Ayrshire Council issued the alert as a “precautionary measure” because the fish had been spotted on the beach, but also admitted that no one had actually been stung. Weever fish are native to the UK and common all around the British Isles in the warmer summer weather. While they can give a relatively painful sting it is somewhat excessive to issue a warning just because the fish (which seldom grows to more than a few in length) has been spotted. It is not known if other councils will issue alerts when this species is spotted in their areas. Read more on the BBC News website here.