August 2017 – News

UK’s Largest Blue Shark Caught and Released: A 256lb blue shark has been caught and released off the coast of Cornwall. The 9ft-long shark was captured by John Dine fishing out of Penzance using a mackerel bait on a size 10/0 hook. The catch beats the existing boat caught record of 214lb, but as the anglers commendably released the shark after photographing it they will not be eligible for the boat caught record. The killing of large sharks just to claim records is coming under pressure in these conservationally-minded times, and everyone involved in sea angling will be pleased to see sharks such as this returned alive to the sea after being caught. Read more and see pictures of the shark by clicking here.

Local News Website Criticises Anglers for Lost Fishing Gear: A Devon news website has shown pictures of fishing gear lost to snags, labelling the pictures “shocking” and saying it is “killing marine life.” The area in question is Hope’s Nose in Devon, a nationally registered Site of Special Scientific Interest which is popular with anglers as the flat, platform like rocks allow easy access to the sea and form an ideal fishing location. The area has had issues with a minority of anglers leaving litter, acting anti-socially and taking home unreasonable numbers of mackerel. There is now a Public Spaces Protection Order in place which limits anglers to retaining a maximum of twenty mackerel and bans actions such as illegal camping and other forms of anti-social behaviour. However, an environmental charity called Fathoms Deep has embarked on a project to remove fishing gear from the seabed at Hope’s Nose. The group say that they have collected over 100kg of fishing gear from the area, with a spokesperson for the group stating that “the sea bed was utterly matted with line and lures and even some fishing rods … there were many crabs and other sea creatures all caught up … even the local seals have hooks lining their mouths.” Read the full article by clicking here.

Cabinet Split Over EU Access to British Fisheries After Brexit: What will happen to British fisheries post-Brexit is something which is in the news every month. The overwhelming majority of the UK’s commercial fishing industry, and many coastal communities voted in favour of Brexit so the UK could reclaim control of its territorial waters. At the present moment the UK’s EU membership means any EU nation with a fishing industry can fish in British waters and the UK can only catch fish in its own waters up to quota levels set by the EU. The current Conservative government has been fairly strong in its claims that Britain would take back control of its fishing waters after Brexit, as evidenced by the withdrawal from the London Fisheries Convention, a policy which is separate to the EU but allows European fishing vessels to fish close to the British shoreline. However, news emerged this month that a split in the cabinet had taken place, with pro-Brexit environment secretary Michael Gove stating that Britain should indeed take back control of its fishing ground, but chancellor Philip Hammon saying that EU vessels should be granted access in return for concessions on a trade deal with the EU. Former Prime Minister Ted Heath was heavily criticised for ‘betraying’ Britain’s fishing communities when he gave away access to EU nations for very little in return as a condition of Britain joining the EEC (the predecessor of the EU) in the 1970s. If something similar to this was to happen again Britain’s fishing industry, coastal communities and the pro-Brexit lobby (including MPs and cabinet ministers) would react with fury. Read more by clicking here.

Belgian Fishing Industry ‘Could Collapse’ Without Access to UK Waters: In linked news a spokesman for Belgian fishermen said that their fishing industry could collapse if it was denied access to UK waters after Brexit. Emiel Brouckaert said that the Belgians had “clear demands” on where they expected to be able to fish after Brexit, and as sixty per cent of Belgium’s relatively small fishing industry catches came from the UK’s territorial waters. This means that their entire industry could be in trouble if they cannot not fish in British waters. The concern in the Belgian fishing industry has been mirrored in the fishing communities of France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland as many commercial fishermen from EU countries begin to realise the impact of losing access to British fishing waters. Read more on this story on the Independent’s website here.

EU Access to British Fishing Waters Post-Brexit: The Guardian ran another story this month about EU nations being able to continue to access Britain’s territorial waters post Brexit. The pro-remain newspaper couched the story in terms of this contradicting the “take back control” message of leave-backing politicians such as the current environment secretary Michael Gove. It has always been likely that Britain will allow a certain level of fishing within its waters once the Brexit process is complete, but it will be up to the UK government how much fishing by foreign vessels takes place and under what conditions. Indeed, non-EU Norway – a country which has some of the richest fishing stocks in Europe due to its non-membership of the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy – allows EU vessels to access its waters, but Norway is in control of the conditions under which they fish and the level their catches are set at. Read the full article on the Guardian website by clicking here.

Consumers ‘Betrayed’ Over MSC’s Sustainable Tuna: A marine campaign group called On The Hook, which is made up of fish retailers, charities, scientists and conservation groups, has heavily criticised the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) decision to award their blue tick logo (which denotes sustainability of a fish stock) to the western and central Pacific skipjack tuna fishery. This fishery produces around half of the world’s skipjack tuna, the species most commonly found tinned on supermarket shelves. Vessels in the fishery uses nets to catch free swimming tuna, a method of commercial fishing which has a relatively low environmental impact and provides the basis for the fisheries MSC sustainability certification. However, the same vessels at other times also use FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices). These are floating structures which attract tuna which are then encircled with a net, but FADs are seen as destructive as many of the tuna which are caught by this type of fishing are undersized, while endangered species such as turtles and sharks are often caught as bycatch when FADs are used. On The Hook is asking how the western and central Pacific skipjack tuna fishery can be verified as sustainable if it uses this practice. Many significant figures have weighed in with criticism of the MSC. TV presenter and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said that he would reconsider using MSC to supply sustainable fish for his restaurants if the MSC certification system and MP Richard Benyon, a former fisheries minister, said that the MSC’s reputation could be “squandered quickly” and their processes must be “urgently reviewed.” Professor Callum Roberts, the world-leading fisheries expert, said that the MSC had “lost its moral compass” by awarding the certification. Read the full article in the Guardian by clicking here.

Jellyfish Now on the Menu?: An article on the BBC’s website asked if we should now be looking to eat jellyfish, as numbers of various jellyfish species have rocketed in European waters (as well as elsewhere around the world). The BBC journalist reported from an Italian food festival which had a jellyfish cooking demonstration as one of its main attractions. Certain jellyfish species, such as the harmful mauve stinger have increased in number throughout the Mediterranean, with the south and west of the British Isles also seeing an increasing number of this species. While the BBC article is presented in a humorous and lighthearted way, with the reporter finding that they like the taste of jellyfish when they try it, hugely increasing jellyfish numbers are the sign of an unhealthy ecosystem. The reason why there is more jellyfish is because natural predators of jellyfish – large fish species – have been heavily reduced in number by commercial fishing. This leaves jellyfish free of predators and allows their numbers to skyrocket. Prof. Daniel Pauly, the world-renowned fisheries scientist has pointed out that with traditional fish stocks now heavily reduced, a growing number of fishermen in the developing world are now catching jellyfish as there is little else for them to catch. Click here to read the full article on the BBC website.

New Research Shows That Fish Actively Eat Plastic Pollution: A new study carried out America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that fish actively seek out and eat pieces of plastic pollution which accumulate in the world’s seas and oceans. Previously it was believed that fish and other marine species only ingested plastic pollution when water passed over their gills or when filter feeding. However, the new research has found that as plastic degrades and becomes covered in algae it releases chemicals which mimic the scent and smell of natural sources of food. Plastic pollution is a major issue across the world’s oceans. Recent high-profile campaigns have been successful in raising public awareness of the harmful effects of plastic, but it is still estimated that across the world around eight million tons of plastic are dumped in the world’s oceans every year. Read more on the Guardian website by clicking here.

‘Extreme’ Trailer for Fishing Video Game Goes Viral: Fishing is not generally considered an extreme sport by the general public, but the trailer for a new fishing-based video game called Fishing Planet has gone viral. The attention-grabbing trailer features zooming camera shots over mountains, lakes and swampland, fishing lures splashing dramatically into water in slow motion and a freshwater bass species lunging for the lure, all set to heavy rock music. The contrast between the sedate nature of fishing and the extremeness of the trailer appears to have amused many people on the internet. Read more and see the trailer by clicking here.

Human Activities Could Trigger Extinction of Ocean Life: A story in the Independent this month warned that a combination of human actions could lead to a major loss of life across the world’s seas and oceans. The newspaper reported that sewage entering the world’s oceans, as well as fertiliser run-off from farming was leading to huge algal blooms. These then died with the decomposition process absorbing all of the oxygen from the sea and creating a dead zone where no marine life can exist. Localised and relatively small scale dead zones already exist in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico, the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Baltic Sea, but they could become much more common if the human actions causing them are not scaled back. Read more by clicking here.

Pulse Trawling Back in the News: Pulse trawling (also known as electro trawling) is a method of fishing which uses electric fields to shock fish out of the seabed and into the trawler’s net. While this type of fishing is officially banned by the EU in European waters it has been quietly been able to expand by allowing fishermen to use this technology under the guise of carrying out research into this type of fishing. This issue is back in the news this month as a number of commercial fishermen’s groups are calling for the EU to drop its opposition to pulse trawling and allow the use of the method to be expanded. Commercial fishermen are attracted to pulse trawling as the trawl nets are up to ten times lighter than traditional beam trawls, meaning that vessels use much less fuel when they are fishing. However, there are serious concerns over the impact that pulse trawling has on the marine environment with certain species of fish – especially large cod – though to be killed if they swim near to the electric fields the pulse trawl generates. The BBC looked at the issues relating to pulse trawling this month, watch the video here, and read the full British Sea Fishing article on pulse trawling by clicking here.

Footage of Great White Shark Attempting to Eat Camera: Footage of a great white shark attempting to eat a GoPro camera has been captures off the coast of Cape Cod in the USA. Scientist Greg Skomal from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries was filming the sharks as part of a tagging expedition when a 12ft shark wedged the camera inside of its mouth as it tried to eat it, before releasing the camera from its jaws. See the footage by clicking here.

British Woman ‘Attacked’ by Stingray on Holiday: A British woman is apparently “lucky to be alive” after she stepped on a stingray while on holiday in Thailand and was stabbed in the foot by the creature’s poisonous barb. Dawn North, 44, was walking in the water off the coast of Khao Lak when the stingray stabbed he foot, resulting in “searing pain” and “agony.” Her husband brought here to the shore and she was treated in a local hospital, and then attended Accident and Emergency on her return to the UK. Stingray ‘attacks’ on humans are very rare as the creatures only use their stinging barb defensively, but if a stingray is surprised or startled it may strike out. Click here to read the full story on the Daily Mail website.

Footage of Shark Being Shot to Death: Last month we reported on a video of men killing a shark by dragging it behind a speedboat off the coast of America. The footage, which was uploaded to social media, caused an outcry and demands for the men to be identified and punished for their actions. This month further footage of the cruel treatment of sharks has emerged. In this new video a man reels a hammerhead shark up to a boat and another man shoots the shark twice with a pistol and then laughs as the creature bleeds. It is not known if the two incidents are linked and the identity of the man who shoots the shark has yet to be established. However, this video has again caused controversy and led to calls for the man to be identified and punished. Read more and see the video by clicking here.

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