Our monthly news digest of all of the issues happening across the world relating to sea fishing, conservation and other issues relating to the marine environment.
November 2016 News
Anglers Demand Fair Deal on Bass: Anglers have called for a better deal on bass for 2017 after they were forced to put up with strict catch limits this year, while sections of the commercial fishing industry saw their bass quotas increase. For the first half of 2016 bass were a catch-and-release species only for anglers, and anglers were limited to retaining one fish per day per anglers for the rest of the year. The highly damaging gill net fishery, however, saw its quota for bass increase from one ton per month, to 1.3 tons. The UK government was accused of caving in to pressure from the commercial fishing industry when it agreed the deal. Now anglers, and the owners of charter boats, have been campaigning for the 2017 plan on bass to reach a fairer deal. This could include making bass a rod and line only species for commercial fishing, having a two month long closed season to allow bass to breed, and having a more flexible monthly bag limit for recreational anglers. The legislation and restrictions on bass fishing for 2017 will be announced next month. Read more here.
Bass Petition: The campaign to give more protection to bass in 2017 has extended to a petition which is calling for the government to maintain restrictions on fishing for bass with nets, and not to water down the proposals. The petition was organised by the angling writer, journalist and photographer Henry Gilbey and can be signed by clicking here. At the time of writing the petition had just passed the 10,000 signature mark, which means that the government will issue a response to it. If it receives more than 100,000 signatures then it will be considered for debate in Parliament.
Sea Turtle Found in UK: A rare Olive Ridley sea turtle – usually found in the tropical waters of the Pacific – was found washed up but alive on a Welsh beach this month. It is a mystery how the turtle ended up so far from its natural habitat of the tropical waters around the equator. The turtle was described as being in poor condition but luckily washed up right outside Anglesey Sea Zoo, and the staff were able to care for the turtle and were hopeful of nursing it back to full health, after which it would be transported back to warmer waters and released. Read more and see pictures by clicking here.
Dispute Over $2.8 million Fishing Prize: The winner of the $2.8 million top prize in a US fishing competition looks set to be decided by a federal judge. The Baltimore Sun reported that the White Marlin Open – a tournament which has been held off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland since 1974 – was won with a 76.5lb white marlin. However, there were allegations that the fish was caught before the competition officially began, and the team of the winning boat failed a series of polygraph (lie detector) tests. The organisers of the competition want to distribute the prize money between other entrants, but the crew of the winning boat insist they have done nothing wrong. It will now take a federal judge to decide who gets the prize money. Read more here.
Do Fish Have Feelings?: A new book entitled Fish Have Feelings, Too: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins claims that fish are much more intelligent than we think and can experience pleasure and pain, learn and even recognise human faces. Dr. John Balcombe, the author of the book, says that experiments and observations have shown that fish express emotions and display social behaviour. Examples include moray eels and groupers working together to catch prey and small cleaner fish pick parasites off larger creatures. However, Dr. Balcombe claims that fish also use touch to give pleasure to other fish, stating that cleaner fish will run their fins along larger fish (as well as removing the parasites) to ensure that the larger fish return. He also says that far from having poor memories fish can remember information, including human faces. Dr. Balcombe – who has not eaten fish in over thirty years – has used his book to campaign for better treatment of fish and believes that we should re-assess the way we treat the 32,000 species of fish found across the world. Read the full article in the Express here.
Squid Catches Prompt Conservation Fears: The rising popularity of squid has caused conservationists to warn that stocks may be being over-exploited. Worldwide catches of squid were around half a million tons in the 1960s, but now stand at around 3.5 million tons, with squid overtaking prawns in popularity on restaurant menus, and chains such as Yo! Sushi adding more squid dishes to their menus as a response to rising demand. The Marine Conservation Society have warned that many squid stocks around the world are unregulated and species such as Humboldt squid – found in the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic are some of the most overfished species in the world. Read more by clicking here.
US Shark Feeding Ban May Be Imposed: Legislators in the United States have put forward a ban on humans feeding sharks for any reason apart from attracting them to catch commercially. The ban has been brought about following the incident last month which saw a great white shark smash its way into a cage with a diver. The shark was not attempting to attack the diver but had instead went for a piece of bait on a line when its momentum caused it to collide with the cage and end up inside. The ban would specifically prohibit adding: “food or any other substance into the water to feed or attract sharks for any purpose other than to harvest sharks.” Dive operators who add bait to the water to attract sharks closer for divers to view are opposed to the legislation, fearing it could destroy their businesses. However, supporters say that feeding sharks puts both sharks and divers at risk and interrupts the sharks usual feeding patterns by conditioning them to associate humans with food. The US states of Hawaii and Florida already ban shark feeding and both have successful shark viewing dive operators, who also say using bait to attract sharks to cages can make them more aggressive and agitated. Read more here.
Australian Anglers Catch 12ft Hammerhead Shark: Two Australian anglers caught (and released) a huge hammerhead shark from the shore this month. The two anglers, Jamie Dennis and Mitchell Palmer, were fishing off a beach in Gerladton when the hooked the shark on a mullet bait. The shark took around an hour and a half to reel in and was measured and photographed in the shallow water of the beach and then released back into the sea. The shark was measured at 12.5ft long and would have set a world record for a shore caught hammerhead shark, but due to the anglers conservation-minded actions they have had to settle for holding an unofficial record, as the shark would have had to be killed to be verified as an official record. See pictures of the shark on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.
Death of Coral Reefs Will Impact on Millions of People: Warming seas and increasing ocean acidification are causing the loss of the world’s coral reefs on an unprecedented scale. While the impact on the marine environment and the creatures which depend on it will be devastating, an international group of researchers have found that the impact on millions of humans could be equally severe. The research revealed that countries ranging from China and Japan to Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Fiji and Thailand – as well as many others – would all be negatively impacted. Fishing and tourism industries would be destroyed by the large-scale loss of coral reefs, leading to mass job losses and economic problems in some areas, and potentially serious damage to the supply of food in others. The researchers highlighted other factors. These include the loss of the barrier role that reefs carry out, meaning that many coastal communities will be much more vulnerable to storms and large waves coming from the sea, with loss of life and property a much more likely outcome if coral reefs are allowed to disappear. Read more on this story on the Washington Post website here.
Shark Tourism Helping Typhoon Recovery: In November 2013 the Philippines was struck by Typhoon Haiyan which destroyed over one million homes and killed around six thousand people. However, in the Cebu Province – one of the areas hardest hit by the disaster – locals have been using the tourism generated by viewing sharks to regenerate the local economy and recover from the typhoon. This is possible because thresher sharks which are found in the seas around Cebu Province come into very shallow water to utilise cleaner wrasse – small fish which eat parasites off the bodies of the thresher sharks. This presents an outstanding opportunity for shark viewing, with no baiting, feeding or shark cages needed. Local people have been able to organise shark tourism straight after the typhoon, as the thresher sharks were unaffected by the destruction on land, and restaurants, hotels, guesthouses and other local businesses all benefiting from the growing tourism. While thresher sharks are still hunted in the Philippines there is hope that some fishermen who currently catch thresher sharks may change to protecting the species in order to expand the shark-based tourism. Read the full report on the BBC website here.
China’s Impact on Global Fisheries: Charles Clover, the journalist and author of the famous fisheries conservation book The End of the Line, wrote an article in the Guardian this month questioning the impact that China’s gigantic fishing fleet was having on the world’s fisheries. Clover pointed out that China has over 3,400 fishing vessels in the waters of over one hundred countries, and provides extremely generous government subsidies to construct and operate trawlers, with the costs of sending frozen fish thousands of miles back to China also being subsidised by the government. There are claims that fish stocks in China’s own territorial waters have collapsed, meaning that China is keen to fish elsewhere in the world, with Africa being the main destination. There are also concerns that many Chinese vessels buy licences to fish in some countries waters where illegal, and catches are allowed. Clover points out that with a population of 1.35 billion the demand for fish from China’s population will continue to grow. Read the full story in the Guardian by clicking here.
Rising Sea Temperatures Around Australia Spell Trouble: A rise of 0.6 degrees Celsius in sea temperature has attracted more tropical species to Australian waters. However, this has caused disaster for the kelp forests which are native to Australian waters as many of the new species are herbivores, meaning they have began to consume much of the kelp which the native species rely on for their habitat. This has had a massive impact on the many of the creatures which are native to Australia, and has unknown future consequences for the wider Australian marine ecosystem. This issue is symptomatic of problems which may come to affect British waters, with scientists warning that cold water species which have traditionally inhabited UK waters such as cod and haddock are moving further north, and species such as triggerfish, red mullet, anchovies and other warm water species are taking their place. Read more on the issues facing Australian waters by clicking here.
15% of All Seafood is Caught Illegally: A report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations released this month has stated that one in every seven tons of seafood (around 15%) is illegally caught. This equates to as much as 26 million tons off illegal, unregulated or unreported (IUU) catches, undermining attempts at regulation and conservation of the world’s fish stocks. Currently over 30% of the world’s fish stocks are classed as being overfished with 60% classed as fully fished, meaning no increase in catches can be allowed if they are to remain biologically sustainable. Only 10.5% of the world’s fisheries are classed as under fished. Areas such as the Mediterranean and the Black Sea are particularly concerning, as catches from these regions have dropped by a third in the last ten years. Read more here.
Protection Needed for Deep Sea Species: The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) – a group of charities, government bodies and marine organisations – has said that fishing for roundnose grenadier and blue ling should stop as both species have been overfished to the extent that they are now classed as either Vulnerable or Endangered by the International Council for the Conservation of Nature. Fishing of very deep waters (over 800 metres) has proved immensely controversial as many of the species there are slow-growing and late-maturing, meaning that they cannot recover once their numbers have been depleted. Furthermore the ecosystem at these depths is immensely fragile and is destroyed by the actions of commercial fishing boats. Only France and Spain have significant deep-sea fishing fleets, and both of these nations provide very large subsidies to these fleets as fishing for deep-sea species would otherwise be financially unviable. Read more about this story on the Fish2 Fork website by clicking here.
5p Plastic Bag Tax: The small charge which was brought in on plastic bags has had a positive impact on the marine environment according to Marine Conservation Society (MCS). The tax began being imposed in October 2015 and has seen the amount of single use plastic bags used by UK consumers fall by around 80%. This has led to the average number of plastic bags per 100 metres of coastline falling from eleven to seven. With 500 billion plastic bags used every year on a worldwide basis it is hoped than other countries will follow the UK’s lead and impose a tax on the use of plastic bags. Read more here.
Florida Man Charged with Allegedly Punching a Shark: A man has been charged with punching a hammerhead shark which later died. According to the Panama City News Herald the man caught the 8ft shark at a Florida fishing mark when he was fishing with another man. Witnesses then claim one of the men put his arm around the shark and then repeatedly punched it in the stomach. They then took the shark further inland and sat a young child on top of the shark and took photos. When the shark was returned to the water the two men could not revive it. The Panama City News Herald states that when he was questioned by officers the man explained his actions by saying they were “kinda like doing CPR on a shark.” Hammerhead sharks are a protected species in the waters of Florida. The man is due in court on 7th December. Read more here.
Brexit and the Price of Fish: While Britain has defined many of the predictions of an economic slump following the Brexit vote, prices of many products – including fish – are increasing. This is because the declining value of the pound makes it more expensive to import goods from abroad. The BBC reported that fish importers have seen the price of bass increase by around 10% since the EU referendum in June. Read the full BBC article by clicking here.
Storm Sees Starfish Stranded: Parts of the UK have been battered by Storm Angus this month causing rough seas and dangerous conditions across many areas. On Southsea Beach in Hampshire thousands of starfish were left stranded on the beach as the storm dislodged them from their habitat and threw them onto the sand, with some even being launched onto the nearby promenade. While some members of the public made attempts to return the starfish to the sea, every large wave brought more starfish onto the beach meaning that many died due to being out of the water for too long. Starfish are often at risk of being beached as they live in relatively shallow water where they feed on mussels and other shellfish. Their lack of mobility means they find it difficult to return to the sea if they do find themselves beaches. See pictures by clicking here.