August 2019 – News

Great Hammerhead Shark on the edge of British waters: A hammerhead shark has been confirmed as being present on the edge of UK waters. A great hammerhead shark – which can grow to six metres (18ft) in length and around 1000lb in weight – was spotted in the Celtic Sea by scientists on board the Celtic Explorer research vessel. The sighting was made at the end of last month but news only emerged at the start of this month. A great hammerhead shark has never been recorded so close to the coast of Britain before, and scientists believe that warming seas could be pushing this species further northwards and into UK waters. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Email error reveals government concern over post-Brexit fishing patrols: An email which was meant to be internally circulated within Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has revealed that the government is concerned that it may not be able to adequately patrol UK fishing grounds after Brexit. If the UK leaves the EU at the end of October on a no deal basis then the UK will immediately regain control of its fishing grounds, extending 200 nautical miles from the British coastline, and foreign fishing vessels will be banned from fishing within this zone. However, the email states that there are only twelve ships to monitor an area “three times the size of the surface area of the UK” and also said that there was “a lot of uncertainty about the sufficiency of enforcement.” Admiral Lord West, the former First Sea Lord, said that the UK had “insufficient assets to patrol and look after our exclusive economic zone for fisheries, and also our territorial seas.” The UK government has maintained that it has made the necessary preparations to patrol UK waters after Brexit. Read more on this story on the BBC website by clicking here.

Belfast Live website appears to make shark mistake: The website Belfast Live appeared to make a mistake over the identity of a small shark species this month. The website said that dog walkers Lucie Owens and her partner Gareth were walking their dog on the beach at Crawfordsburn in County Down when they came across a small dead shark which had washed up on the beach. They photographed the shark and identified it as a zebra shark – a species native to the Indian and South Pacific Oceans – as it was “identical” to pictures of this species they viewed online. The article, which is written in a tone which is receptive to the creature being a zebra shark, quoted Luis Ferreira from the nearby Exploris Aquarium as confirming it was a zebra shark, stating “it is a tropical species … it’s from the other side of the world.” However, many anglers will believe that the fish pictured is in fact a very common lesser spotted dogfish, or possibly its slightly larger neighbour the bull huss. Both species are native to the UK and relatively common around much of the coastline of the British Isles. View the article, which was still live and unamended as of late August 2019, by clicking here.

‘Salmon Canon’ invention aims to allow fish to pass barriers to migration: A new invention known as the Salmon Canon could help fish pass barriers to migration such as dams, sluices and weirs. Created by US-based Whooshh Innovations the Salmon Canon (it is intentionally spelt with one n to differentiate it from the weapon of war) is designed to get fish across large barriers such as dams quickly. It uses pneumatic tubes which utilise differentials in pressure to effectively fire the fish through the tubes and across the barrier. Despite the speed at which the fish travel through the tubes the system is apparently smooth and leaves the fish completely unharmed, with their passage through the tubes feeling similar to remaining in water. The makers of the Salmon Canon state that “many millions” of fish have already passed across barriers with the help of the device, and there are plans to extend it throughout the Pacific Northwest of the USA and Canada and also in Norway. With barriers to migration being a major cause of the decline of species such as salmon, trout and silver eels it is hoped that the Salmon Canon could go a long way to solving this issue. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Leatherback turtle spotted and filmed off coast of Cornwall: A leatherback turtle which was believe to be around two metres (6ft) long was spotted off the coast of Cornwall in Falmouth Bay this month. The turtle was spotted by kayaker James Adger who was also able to capture footage of the turtle. Leatherback turtles are usually found in the warmer areas of the Atlantic Ocean around the equator and are very rare in UK waters. Scientists and marine conservationists have requested that boat users in the area are extra vigilant as leatherback turtles swim slowly and near the surface meaning that they can often be hit by boats. Click here to read more on this story and see footage of the turtle.

Could plant-based fish substitutes could solve the problem of overfishing?: There were a number of stories across the media in the UK and US stating that fish substitute foods made out of plants could become much more common in coming years. This could remove the need to use industrial fishing methods to catch wild fish in huge numbers, save the marine environment from damage and allow fish stocks to recover across the world. Companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have been given huge valuations based on their ability to make beef, pork and other meat substitutes from plant based material and these companies, along with many others, are now moving on to fish. The depletion of wild fish stocks and the environmental problems caused by fish farming are spurring the innovation in plant-based fish alternatives on, with a number of companies using ingredients such as algae, seaweeds and fungi to mimic real fish and seafood. While Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are remaining quiet about their exact plans for fish-based foods US company Alpha Foods said that they would bring its first fish substitute products to the market in 2020. Read more on this story by clicking here.

US beachgoers “bullied” out of the water by great white sharks: Beachgoers along the eastern coast of the US are being “bullied” out of the water by the rising number of great white sharks, according to an article in the Independent. The paper quoted reports that swimmers had been ordered out of the water on multiple occasions this year after sharks were spotted in the water, with at least fifty-nine beach closures taking place in Cape Cod alone between July and the start of August. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, a not-for-profit organisation which raises awareness of great white sharks, stated that shark attacks on humans were incredibly rare, and that great white sharks are currently listed as Vulnerable by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Click here to read more on this story.

Plans for salmon farm off Hebridean Island spark objections: Plans for a new salmon farms off the island of Canna have led to objections, with the National Trust for Scotland warning that the farm could ruin the area’s environment and have a major impact on wildlife. Mowi, the largest fish farming company in the world which was previously known as Marine Harvest, want to build eight fish pens close to the island and stock them with 2,500 tons of organic salmon. The company claims that as the salmon will be organic there will be fewer fish than in a normal fish farm. However, the National Trust for Scotland had a number of concerns over the plans. They sated that despite the salmon being organic there will still be huge levels of waste produced by the fish and further pollution cause by uneaten fish food. The presence of the farm would also deter visitors and tourists, a major source of income for the island. Furthermore service vessels to the farm could re-introduce rats to the area – in the 2000s around £600,000 was spent eradicating rats from Canna to help save rare mice and bird species which are found on the island. Mowi played down fears over tourism and stated that strong tides in the area would help reduce issues around pollution. They also said that they would pay for an eradication programme if the company’s activities led to the re-introduction of rats. Fish farming was until recently heavily promoted as an economic success story by the Scottish government. However, recent years have seen fears over pollution, disease and environmental damage lead to much stronger regulations being proposed for fish farms, and the rapid expansion of the industry come to a halt. Read more on this story here.

Shark and ray species to be given new international protection: Eighteen species of sharks and rays will be given greater protection across the world after a proposal was passed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species this month. The species include mako sharks, wedgefishes and guitarfish, and means that these species cannot be internationally traded unless it can be proven that commercially fishing for them does not impact on their survival. While 102 countries voted for the proposal to pass there were forty who voted against it, including China, Japan, New Zealand, Iceland and Malaysia. Read more about this story on the BBC website by clicking here.