April 2016 – News

British Sea Fishing on Share Radio: British Sea Fishing appeared on Share Radio – a London based station which focuses on financial issues – to discuss fishing exports and the impact of the EU referendum. Click here to hear the excerpt of the programme featuring British Sea Fishing.

Cod Catch and Release Research: A Norwegian study has shown that cod recover quickly after being caught and released, in shallow water at least. The study was commissioned after earlier research showed that anglers in Norway released around half of what they caught – equating to over a million individual fish being released by anglers for cod alone. This study therefore wanted to ascertain the proportion of cod which survived after being returned to the sea. Keno Ferter, a PhD student at Norway’s University of Bergen explained that the research began by catching eighty cod in traps and then fitting them with an acoustic tag which tracked their movement and behaviour. Two weeks were then allowed to pass so that the cod could recover from the process of being tagged. The second phase of the study then began with Ferter and his colleagues fishing with a rod and line every day for almost three weeks to try and re-catch the tagged cod. The team caught around seven-hundred cod, nine of which were found to have been tagged. These cod were handled carefully, unhooked and returned to the sea where their post-release behaviour was tracked. The study found that the released cod had a 100% survival rate, with most returning to normal behaviour shortly after returning to the water. Ferter concluded that cod do survive catch and release with little ill-effects, especially if they are handled properly, although he pointed out that the cod examined for this research were all caught in shallow water and the survival rate may not be the same if they were brought up from deeper water. He also had the following advice for anglers returning any fish they have caught:

“Avoid using large triple hooks; these can lead to foul hooking and severe injuries. Use wet hands when touching the fish and avoid long air exposure. If you catch a lot of fish under the minimum landing size, it can be smart to change the fishing spot or use a different type of lure,”

The results of this research will be very interesting to anglers who want to promote catch and release fishing, especially with the increasing claims that recreational fishing has a significant impact on fish stocks. Read the full report on the research here.

Anglers Protest: One of the biggest angling stories this month came from Cornwall, where anglers staged a protest about the restrictions which have been placed on bass fishing. Anglers across the country are furious that they have been banned from keeping any bass they catch until the end of June (and from the 1st July until the end of the year can only retain a single bass) while the highly damaging gill net fishery has had its quota increased. Around two hundred anglers joined the protest, which took place on Saturday 9th April outside the constituency office of the fisheries minister George Eustice MP, who was apparently not in Cornwall on the day of the protest. It remains to be seen what impact the protest will have, but it has certainly pushed bass up the agenda and shown that sea anglers are prepared to fight when unjust regulations are imposed on their sport. Read more by clicking here.

You can email George Eustice to let him know what you think of the current restrictions on anglers at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or write to him at Geroge Eustice MP, 13 Commerical Street, Camborne, TR14 8JZ.

Brexit and Fish Stocks: Fisheries minister George Eustice was in the news again this month when he visited Cornwall to convince commercial fishermen that they would be better off outside of the European Union. The Brexit-supporting minister stated that if Britain votes to the leave the EU on June 23rd then the UK could take control of its fishing ground and secure fairer quotas for its fishermen. He pointed out that in the Celtic Sea (off the south west coast of England) French fishermen had a quota to catch twice as many plaice as British fishermen and three to four times as many haddock – a situation that would change if the UK left the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy. However, he was careful to point out that this would not mean a “free for all” for British fishermen, and quotas would have to remain in place to protect stocks, many of which have been severely overfished in recent years. Read more here.

Fishing Hooks: News from North East England highlighted the danger that fishing hooks can pose. Dog owners Jo and Mick Scott were walking their mastiff cross Harry along the beach at South Shields, near to the South Pier, an extremely popular mark for anglers. The dog ate a baited fishing hook and began to choke, and although Mr. Scott was able to snap the line he was unable to remove the hook. Although the dog was taken to a veterinary practice Harry could not be saved as the hook had pierced his oesophagus. Mr. and Mrs. Scott said that they were not looking to blame anyone but wanted to raise awareness that these type of accidents could happen. Of course only a tiny minority of anglers leave baited hooks on beaches through laziness or carelessness, but news such as this serves as a remind for all anglers to be extra-careful and to ensure that they always dispose of hooks responsibly. Read the original story on the South Shields Gazette website by clicking here.

Microbead Pollution: The Guardian reported this week that a majority of people in the UK backed a ban on microbeads – the tiny pieces of plastic found in cosmetic products such as face washes, toothpastes and a range of other cosmetic products. Microbeads are usually less than a millimetre in diameter and cause immense damage to marine ecosystems. Small marine creatures may consume microbeads, thinking that they are food, with the microbeads ending up inside larger marine fish when they prey on the creatures which originally ate the microbeads. There are also concerns that microbeads could end up in the human food supply through people eating fish with microbeads inside them. The tiny size of microbeads also means that they are almost impossible to remove from the oceans. The use of microbeads has already been banned in the USA, and a UK petition to ban the use of microbeads gained over 250,000 signatures earlier this year. The Guardian reported that 61% of women and 53% of men backed a ban on microbeads once they were made aware of what they were, and also pointed out that safe, biodegradable alternatives to microbeads – such as ground up nutshells – could be used instead. Read the full Guardian story by following this link.

Unlicensed Fishing: A campaign was launched this month to tackle the threat posed by unlicensed fishing. The aim of the campaign is to deal with the growing issue of people from unlicensed vessels, or those who catch fish from the shore, illegally selling fish to restaurants, hotels and other establishments. Launched in the famous Fishmongers Hall in London, the campaign is backed by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), the British Hospitality Association and the Angling Trust. The campaign will highlight the fact that the trade of unlicensed and unregulated fish is not a victimless crime but causes serious damage to fish stocks around the UK, and is also a criminal offence which can lead to prosecution and a criminal record. However, a statement about the campaign on the NFFO website stated that following the campaign options to tackle the problem may include naming and shaming businesses which had been prosecuted for illegally buying fish, but also “putting bag limits on recreational catches of all affected species.” Such a move would undoubtedly produce a furious reaction from the recreational angling community, who are already angry at the restrictions which have been placed on the number of bass which can be caught in 2016. At the moment such restrictions (on species other than bass) are only speculation, but recreational anglers are sure to be watching this campaign closely. Read the full article on the NFFO’s website here.

High Seas Fishing Regulation: Talks were held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City this month to try an bring about a system of regulating fishing on the high seas – the area of sea over 200 miles away from land which is presently largely ungoverned. With over ten million tons of fish caught on the high seas every year it is believed that high seas fishing has a massive impact on fish stocks closer to land (where the majority of fish are caught), and the ungoverned nature of the high seas means that illegal fishing and poaching is common. There are also other issues, such as people being forced to work on fishing vessels in slavery like conditions. Professor Daniel Pauly, the world-renowned fisheries scientist, suggested that fishing should be banned altogether on the high seas, as this would significantly increase catches closer to land, and also share fish out more equally to countries which did not have the resources to construct and run high seas fishing fleets. He also suggested that vessels could be tracked by a satellite system to enforce this. While a total ban on high seas fishing is extremely unlikely, it may be the case that specific areas of the world’s seas are given marine reserve status, preventing fishing from taking place within them, and an enforcement body is set up to stop illegal fishing and protect reserves. It is likely that any treaty to protect the high seas will not come into force until 2019 at the earliest. Read more here.

Ambergris Found: A Lancashire couple are hoping to be £50,000 richer after finding a 1.5kg (3.3lbs) lump of ambergris on their local beach. Gary and Angela Williams were walking along Middleton Sands near Morcambe when they found the ambergris which was described as being slightly smaller than a rugby ball, having a waxy texture and smelling like a mix of rotting squid and manure. Ambergris is produced in the intestines of sperm whales and is thought to ease the passage of sharp objects – such as squids beaks – through the digestive systems of the whales. However, some sperm whales will vomit out excess ambergris. When found by humans it can be immensely valuable as it is used in as an ingredient in high end cosmetic products such as perfumes. In 2015 a 1.1kg piece of ambergris found on a Welsh beach sold for £11,000. However, Mr. and Mrs. Williams will be in for an anxious wait while tests are carried out to confirm that their discovery is genuine ambergris. In 2013 52-year-old Ken Wilman found a lump of what he thought was ambergris on Morcambe Beach which he thought could be worth more than £100,000 – a story which was covered by the BBC, The Sun, Channel 4 and even made the news as far away as Australia and America. After samples were sent away Mr. Wilman shocked to find out that his discovery was not ambergris, and was completely worthless. Read more by clicking here.

Giant Oarfish: One of the world’s largest – and most mysterious – fish was caught off the coast of Taiwan this month. A 16-foot long giant oarfish was caught by commercial fishermen and taken back to land where it was photographed. While this oarfish was large they can grow to lengths of more than thirty feet, making them the largest bony fish in the world. Due to their rarity this oarfish would have been of immense interest to the scientific community, and an oarfish washing up anywhere in the world makes international news.This specimen, however, could not be studied by scientists as it was chopped up into pieces in the street to be cooked. Read the article on this topic on the Daily Mail website here.