April 2020 – News

Storms followed by coronavirus means bleak year for UK fishing industry: An article in the Guardian outline how the UK’s commercial fishermen has been badly affected by two issues which mean the industry is facing a “bleak year.” Storms and high winds across much of the UK at the start of the year prevented many commercial fishermen from going to sea leading to reduced catches. Now, as weather has improved, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a slump in demand for fish making it uneconomic for many fishermen to go to sea as the value of their catch will not even cover fuel and wage costs. Around seventy per cent of the UK catch is exported but some of the biggest markets such as Asia have banned imports of fish and shellfish, meaning British fishermen have nowhere to sell their catch. This has been combined with the closing of the UK restaurants, hotels and cafes trade and supermarkets closing their fish counters as they concentrate on their core business meaning that the demand from the UK market has also collapsed. This has led to speculation that many fishermen, almost all of which are self-employed, may go out of business. Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, has called for a “bespoke package” of support from the government for the UK commercial fishing sector. Click here to read the full article.

Reduction in commercial fishing could allow fish stocks to recover: An article in the Smithsonian Magazine this month offered a more positive view of the lack of commercial fishing due to coronavirus, stating that the reduction of pressure on stocks would allow a window for stocks to recover. The article said that in Europe a combination of safety measures to stop the virus spreading along with a collapse in demand for fish had severely reduced fishing activity, while in West Africa and China satellite images showed that fishing activity had reduced by as much as eighty per cent. Even in areas where demand for fish was still high, such as the US market for canned tuna, restrictions on crews and port and harbour closures had curtailed fishing activity. While a reduction in fishing was bad news for the commercial fishing industry environmentalists and conservationists have pointed out that this is a chance for some of the most pressurised fish stocks in the world to recover. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has pointed out that over the last few decades the demand for fish has continued to increase, while on average fishing fleets are staying out at sea longer and returning with fewer fish. Daniel Pauly, the world renowned fisheries scientist has said that a global moratorium on commercial fishing will actually benefit the commercial fishing industry in the medium to long term saying “it will lead to more cost-effective fishing because we won’t have to search all over for fish.” Read the full article by clicking here.

UK to “lead the way in green fishing”: An article in the Telegraph this month said that the UK will “lead the way in green fishing” once the country has left the Common Fisheries Policy (which is scheduled to happen at the end of this year). Current plans are for EU-UK fishing rights to be negotiated this year, with the UK and EU set to clash over who has the right to quotas in waters which the UK will regain control of after the transition deal ends. The Telegraph article stated that the UK government would prioritise “green” fishing and set quotas within scientific limits to protect and restore stocks. When EU fishing quotas are decided every December the EU seeks advice on sustainable limits from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas and then often ignores that advice to set quotas at much higher levels (due to pressure from the fishing industry). The Telegraph quotes research by campaigning organisation Our Fish and the New Economics Foundation which found that EU nations have overfishing 8.78 million tons of fish in the last two decades are set to fail to comply with a law the EU itself set to legally end overfishing by the end of this year. Read the more by clicking here (requires subscription to read full article).

‘Katherine’ the great white shark reappears after an absence of a year: A well-known great white shark has reappeared on satellite tracking systems after disappearing from them a year ago. The shark, which has been nicknamed Katherine, is a fourteen foot long great white which has was fitted with a tracking device seven years ago. The movements of the shark have been followed and posted on the sharks own twitter account (@Shark_Katharine) and the project has been credited with popularising and encouraging shark conservation. It was believed that the batteries in the tracker ran out a year ago meaning that Katherine could no longer be monitored. However, this month it was announced that Katherine once again re-emerged on the monitoring system with the scientists responsible for tracking Katherine stating that she was approximately 200 miles off the coast of Virginia. Katherine is now thought to be around thirty years old and weigh over 3000lbs. Click here to read more on this story.

Fishing (along with golf) could be first activities to return after lockdown: The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has hinted that fishing and golf could be among the first activities to be allowed once the lockdown begins to be lifted. People currently only allowed to leave their homes for a number of specified reasons (such as essential work, shopping and exercise) meaning anglers are currently not permitted to go fishing. However, it appears that activities such as fishing may be among the first to be allowed again due to the fact that they take place outdoors and allow people plenty of space to social distance from one another while they take part in such activities. Read more on this story by clicking here (requires account).

North East beaches ‘transformed’ by building of stone stacks: A number of news outlets such as the Daily Mail and the BBC website have reported that beaches around the UK have been ‘transformed’ by people creating stone and pebble stacks. Whitley Bay beach in North Tyneside was one of the areas featured showing huge numbers of stone stacks covering the beach. While media outlets have generally presented these stories in a positive light marine conservation organisations such as Blue Planet Society have criticised stone stack building saying it alters the make-up of the beach, removed homes and shelter from small marine creatures and affects the feeding patterns of birds. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Scientific review says that oceans can be fully restored by 2050: The BBC has reported on a scientific study which states that the world’s seas and oceans can be restored by the year 2050. The report, which was published in the academic journal Nature, states that despite the high levels of damage which has been done to the world’s seas and oceans they are proving resilient and this damage could be undone within three decades. This could be achieved by tackling climate change, relieving pressure on fish stocks and stopping plastic and other forms of pollution from entering the ocean. However, the scientists behind the study have warned that there is only a limited window of time to act and issues such as rising sea levels and ocean acidification need addressing immediately. Read the full article on this story by clicking here.