August 2018 – News

“Full criminal inquiry” launched over illegal fishing in Dorset harbour: National media including the BBC have reported on an alleged illegal fishing incident which took place in Poole Harbour this month. Angler Steve Cullen was sleeping in his car between fishing sessions when he was awoken by men at around 4:00 AM who were apparently returning from fishing on a boat. He confronted the men when he saw that they had a bucket of undersize sea bass and a gill net with them. Mr. Cullen said that he “saw red” and began filming the men and also took their gill net away and threw the bucket of juvenile bass into the sea. The men were using a vehicle which was covered in the branding of Eat Pho a Vietnamese restaurant in Bournemouth. There are currently stringent regulations governing the catching of sea bass due to depleted stocks with recreational anglers and commercial fishermen banned from catching and retaining this species. The incident attracted significant coverage on social media and a message apparently from the restaurant owner was posted on Facebook stating that he was “not aware of the ban” on fishing for bass and had taken the boat out at that time in the morning to “relax after a stressful few weeks.” He also added that sea bass was not on the menu of his restaurant. However, the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (SIFCA) have launched what they describe as a “full criminal inquiry” and added that a net had been seized and a number of people were “helping with inquiries.” The restaurant’s page on Trip Advisor was initially hit with a large number of negative reviews but these have since been removed. A text box on the page now says that reviews for the restaurant are currently suspended. Click here to read more on this story.


British and French fishermen clash in the English Channel over scallop fishing: The so-called Scallop Wars – a conflict between British and French fishermen over the right to fish for scallops in and around the Bay of Seine – has reignited this month. The issue first made the news in summer 2012 and was sparked by British fishermen dredging for scallops fifteen miles off the French coast. French fishermen were furious as they were banned from catching scallops in the summer months as a conservation measure. The situation erupted into violence with the French fishermen throwing rocks, metal bars and flares at the British boats, and also attempting to ram them. However, under EU laws the French only have control of their own waters up to twelve nautical miles from their coastline, meaning the British fishermen were fishing legally. Trouble arose again in 2013 but since then the British and French have reached an annual agreement over scallop quotas, meaning that, until now, there has been no further conflict. However, no quota was agreed for 2018, meaning that the issue has flared up again when the British began catching scallops during the closed season for the French. In the latest incident five British boats were surrounded by around thirty-five French boats who threw rocks and smoke bombs at the British, and at least one UK boat was rammed by a French vessel. No injuries were reported but several British boats suffered damage. The French say that the British are “pillaging” scallop stocks using much bigger boats and much more damaging methods than the French fishermen, but the British fishermen reiterate that they are fishing legally outside of French waters and also point out that overall they take much fewer scallops from the area than the French fishermen. UK fishermen have demanded Royal Navy protection while they are fishing in the area, but fisheries chief Barrie Deas has said that the issues should be: “settled by talking around the table, not on the high seas where people could be hurt.” Read more on this story on the BBC news website by clicking here, and read the British Sea Fishing article on this here.

Former Environment Secretary criticises French fishing industry and CFP: Owen Patterson, the Conservative MP and former Environment Secretary wrote and opinion piece in the Sun this month following the scallop incident. In it he heavily criticised the French fishermen over the conflict, pointing out that the French had been massive winners from the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. He said that under CFP rules the French fishing industry can catch 60% of the fish in British waters, meaning that it was “total hypocrisy” for the French to complain about British fishermen catching scallops in the Bay of Seine. He went on to say that the Common Fisheries Policy was “loaded against” Britain, as seen in the way Britain provided half of Europe’s fishing grounds but was only given a quarter of catches. He also said that the CFP was a “biological, environmental, economic and social disaster and was “doomed to failure” due to its bureaucratic policies and inflexibility. Patterson urged the government to fully leave the CFP and take back full control of British waters once the country has left the EU. Click here to read the full article.


UN conference could be the “ocean’s last chance”: The Guardian has reported that a landmark UN conference which is set to take place next month could prove to be one of the final chances to save many species which inhabit the world’s seas and oceans. The Intergovernmental Conference on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea will take place at the UN’s headquarter in New York City between the 4th and 17th of September. Professor Callum Roberts, the world-renowned marine biologist and author, told the Guardian that setting up this conference has taken many years, and if the opportunity is missed to agree on and impose meaningful protection for the world’s oceans it could mark the end for many species. The conference will focus on agreeing to protect the high seas – the parts of the ocean which fall outside of the jurisdiction of any nation. Human activities on the high seas are mostly unregulated, with only the loose, patchwork rules of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea applying. The conference will seek to gain an agreement to create an overarching High Seas Commission which would have the power to create marine protected zones across the high seas in which commercial fishing, shipping and other activities which cause pollution or damage could be banned. Click here to read more on this story.

Are beaches around the UK being spoiled by ‘rock stacking’?: The issue of rock stacking – placing rocks on top of each other to create columns – on British beaches has become something of a contentious issue this month. A number of conservation organisations have stated that this is a damaging and destructive practice, while other groups have defended it. While rock stacking to create cairns goes back to ancient times it has become increasingly popular in recent years, fuelled by the desire of many people to get pictures of rock stacks they have made to put on social media. Environmental groups such as Blue Planet Society believe that stone stacking – when it is carried out excessively – changes the nature and look of beaches and disturbs the environment of small marine creatures which live under rocks. However, others, such as James Craig Page who organises the European stone stacking championships, believe that stacking stones has meditative benefits which outweigh the damaged being caused to the environment. Read more on this story on the BBC website by clicking here.

Plastics News: As usual there were a number of news stories on plastic pollution of the seas and oceans as this issue retains its high profile in the media.

  • Plastic bag charge to double: News emerged this month that the 5p charge which has been effective in slashing the price of plastic carrier bags will be doubled to 10p and smaller shops which are currently exempt from the charge will have to start imposing it. The 5p charge has seen the number of plastic bags used by the public reduce markedly, and a corresponding reduction in the number of plastic bags ending up in the sea. Read about this here.
  • Only one-third of UK plastic waste can be recycled: It was also announced this month that only around one third of the 525,000 tons of plastic used in UK food packaging can be recycled, with the rest being sent to landfill or incinerated. Issues which prevent recycling include black plastic (which is much harder to sort and recycle) being used for trays in ready meals, yoghurt pots and lids being made from two different types of plastic which makes it much more difficult to recycle and polypropylene, which is very difficult to recycle, being used for the packaging for margarine and butter tubs. The news has led to calls to standardise the plastic packaging used in the UK to make recycling easier. Read more here.
  • Campaigners to boycott Walkers over non-recyclable crisp packets: Campaigners have vowed to take action against crisp manufacturer Walkers due to the damage that the non-recyclable crisp packets are doing to the planet. The issue was highlighted when packets of Walkers crisps which were believed to be around thirty years old were found on a beach in Cornwall earlier this year. Walkers, part of the food giant PepsiCo, produce an incredible 11 million bags of crisps a day at their factory in Leicester. However, the bags are made out of polypropylene, a form of plastic which takes around one hundred years to biodegrade. Walkers have stated that they will make crisp packets out of recyclable material by the year 2025, but campaigners have said that this is not good enough as an additional 28 billion non-recyclable bags will have been manufactured by then. An online petition demanding that Walkers switches to recyclable packaging sooner has already gained 300,000 signatures. Read more on this story by clicking here.
  • Ancient fish species found choked by crisp packet: In a connected story the impact of plastic pollution was highlighted when a coelacanth was found washed up off the coast of Indonesia and the cause of death was identified as being an empty packet of Lays crisps (the name for Walkers crisps in most of the rest of the world other than the UK). The fish had eaten the empty crisp packet, presumably mistaking it for food, and the crisp packet had become twisted around its intestines causing the animal’s death. The coelacanth is a species of fish which is as old as the dinosaurs. It was believed to be extinct and only known to humans through fossil records until one was caught off the coast of South Africa in 1938 and it was discovered that the species was not in fact extinct. It is, however, classed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. PepsiCo stated that they found the image of the dead coelacanth was “upsetting” and reiterated that they were working towards having fully compostable or biodegradable packaging by 2025. Read more here.
  • Real Madrid third kit to be made of recycled ocean plastics: Real Madrid, one of the world’s biggest football clubs, has unveiled its third choice kit and revealed that it is made out of plastics which have been recovered from the sea. The coral coloured kit is made by Adidas Parley, an official collaboration between the sportswear brand and Parley for the Oceans, a charitable organisation which focuses on reducing plastic pollution. The strip will be used for the forthcoming season and was unveiled by star players Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale in New York this month. Read more by clicking here.


Shark campaigner doubts great white sharks will be found in UK waters: A shark campaigner and wildlife author has cast doubts on a widely circulated report that great white sharks could begin to appear around the British coastline due to warming sea temperatures. Richard Peirce stated that sea temperatures around the UK were already perfect for great whites and if temperatures continue to warm it is likely to reduce rather than increase the chances of great white sharks being found in British waters. This contradicts the report released last month which drew on work by shark researcher Dr Ken Collins which said that warming seas would bring more shark species to the UK, including great whites. Richard Peirce said he supported the logic of Dr Collins report but said that if great white sharks were coming to the waters around the UK they would already be here. Many factors could explain why great white sharks are absent, including low numbers of sharks across the world, differences in prey movements and other oceanic issues such as salinity levels. Read more on this story by clicking here.

New craze for ‘magnet fishing’ causes concern: The growing trend of magnet fishing – using super strong magnets to pull discarded metal objects out of canals, rivers and harbours – has led to warnings after dangerous objects were found and two men lost their lives when magnet fishing. Magnet fishing has exploded in popularity this year, fuelled by YouTube videos showing people pulling strange and unusual objects out of otherwise unremarkable sections of water, and celebrities such as rugby player James Haskell declaring themselves keen magnet fishers. Magnet fishing uses extremely powerful neodymium magnets which are substantially stronger than regular magnets. These magnets are attached to rope and thrown into water to see what they bring up. However, some magnet fishers have pulled up unexploded World War 2 artillery shells, grenades, swords and knives, crossbows and samurai swords. Most strikingly Gareth Bryer, a former soldier who posts his magnet fishing videos on YouTube, pulled a MAC-10 machine pistol (erroneously referred to as an Uzi in many media reports) from a Manchester canal when magnet fishing. Police have warned of the dangers posed when weapons and explosives are found by members of the public when magnet fishing. This was underlined when two men lost their lives when magnet fishing earlier this year. Father and son Martin and Jack Andrews left their home early in the morning to go magnet fishing in a canal in Huddersfield. A member of the public raised the alarm when personal items including car keys and a mobile phone were found by the side of the canal and a search was organised. Police divers later found the bodies of the two men by nearby floodgates. Inspector Carlton Young of West Yorkshire Police said that the exact circumstances of what happened may never be known but it is assumed that one man fell into the canal and the other went into the water to try to help. Read more here.

Shark forces closure of Majorcan beach: A blue shark has caused a beach in the popular Spanish holiday resort of Majorca to close. The ten foot long shark was spotted off the east coast of the island at the start of this month, causing the Majorcan authorities to order swimmers out of the water. Sky News reported that police and biologists from Palma Aquarium attempted to guide the shark back out to sea, but the animal appeared disoriented and the shark was eventually dragged onto the beach where it died. Read more on this story here.

Basking sharks may use Scottish waters as a breeding ground: New research has showed that basking sharks – the second largest fish in the world – acting in a “sociable” way by gathering on the seabed in Scottish waters. Currently very little is known about the mating patterns of this species and it has been theorised that they may be carrying out courtship behaviour and using Scottish waters as a breeding ground. The findings come from a study by Scottish Natural Heritage and the University of Exeter which started in 2012. Scientists from the two organisations fitted tags to three basking sharks off the coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. The tags contained an innovative miniature towed camera which had never been used on basking sharks before, leading to the discovery of the new basking shark behaviour. It is hoped that the area could become a Marine Protected Area for basking sharks, following a consultation which is currently taking place. Click here to read more.

Concerns over plans to industrially harvest kelp in Scottish waters: Plans have been announced which would eventually see more than 30,000 tons of seaweed industrially harvested from the west coast of Scotland. Ayr based company Marine Biopolymers wants to use specially adapted boats to trawl “large toothed devices” through kelp beds to remove plants over a certain size and a processing factory would also be built nearby. The proposals have led to an outcry from conservation organisations with Nick Underdown from the sustainable fishing charity Open Seas likening to move to “deforestation at sea” while others stated that it would have a devastating impact on the marine environment, fish stock and other marine creatures. The Scottish government said that Marine Scotland would “consult fully” and take into account the environmental effects of any application to harvest seaweed in Scottish waters. Read more on this story here.

New scheme encourages fishermen to use lower impact methods: A new voluntary scheme has been set up which will give fishermen access to premium markets to sell their catch, provided they switch to lower impact fishing methods. The scheme has been set up by the conservation charity Blue Marine Foundation and has proved successful in a trial in Lyme Bay in Dorset. In the trial methods such as heavy trawling were banned, larger nets were used to allow undersized fish to escape and crab and lobster pots were set away from delicate and easily damaged reefs. In return harbourside chillers were set up so that catches could be kept in better condition and a sustainably stamp was provided to prove that fish had been caught with low impact methods. High-end restaurants then pay much higher prices for the catches by fishermen who had signed up for the scheme. Blue Marine Foundation have described the scheme as a “win-win” for local fishermen and said that it will be implemented in new areas across the UK soon. Read more by clicking here.

Fears that Welsh shellfish fishermen will not survive no-deal Brexit: While much of the focus on post-Brexit fisheries has been on the larger quotas which will potentially be available to UK fishermen a BBC article has claimed this month that many Welsh shellfish fishermen may go out of business if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal. This is because much of the shellfish Welsh fishermen catch is exported to EU nations and this could be subject to tariffs and additional costs if the UK leaves with no deal. An additional fear is that live shellfish would be held up by customs checks and other delays if there is no deal with the EU, meaning it will decline in quality and therefore value. In 2017 Welsh shellfish fishermen caught £38.8 million of produce and 90% of that was exported to the EU. The Welsh government has said that it has “repeatedly warned” of the impact of a no deal Brexit, but the UK government has said that it is confident of getting the “best possible deal” when Britain leaves the EU. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Map reveals extent of Scotland’s coastal litter: A map which utilises aerial photographs to identify litter around the coastline of Scotland has been launched. The The Scottish Coastal Rubbish Aerial Photography (SCRAPbook) is an initiative between three charities and uses photographs taken by pilots to locate and log areas where litter has began to accumulate. The amount of rubbish in an area is given a rating of one to five to give an idea of the severity of the litter problem. Archie Liggat of the UK Civil Aviation Patrol is one of the people behind the project and said that as well as domestic rubbish they had found “industrial rubbish … metric tonnes [of it] in some places.” It is hoped that the map will allow coastal litter clear-ups to be more effectively organised and focused on the areas which have been worst hit by rubbish. However, it is also hoped that the findings of the project will be used to identify where litter and rubbish is coming from and how it can be prevented from entering the sea in the first place. View the SCRAPbook map by clicking here, and read the BBC article on this story by clicking here.

Endurance swimmer completes English Channel challenge: Endurance swimmer and environmental campaigner Lewis Pugh has completed his challenge of swimming the length of the English Channel to raise awareness of the environmental issues facing the world’s seas and oceans. Rather than swimming across the Channel Pugh swam the 348 mile length of the Channel from Cornwall to Kent, a feat which took him forty-nine days. Pugh, who is a UN Patron of the Oceans, said that he was shocked by how few fish he had seen during the swim: “I’ve seen a few dolphins, a few birds, lots of jellyfish, but virtually nothing else – the oceans around the United Kingdom are so badly over-fished.” Mr. Pugh has called for much greater protection for the seas around the UK and hopes that successful completing this challenge will help raise awareness of the measures that need to be taken to restore the marine environment of the UK. Read more on this story by clicking here.