August 2020 – News

251lb blue shark caught and released off Cornish coast: A father and son team have caught (and then released) a large blue shark off the coast of Cornwall. The 9ft, 251lb shark was caught by Harry Pardoe and his father Mike after a ninety minute battle. The pair were fishing off the coast of Falmouth and used a mackerel bait to catch the blue shark. The shark was brought onto the charter boat they were fishing from its size they were able to calculate that it weighed approximately 251lb (113.5kg). This is significantly more than the 218lb British boat caught record which has stood since 1959 but Harry and Mike Pardoe will not be able to claim a new record as they released the shark and the archaic rules of the BRFC state that potential record fish must be weighed on land. This invariably means killing the fish, an aspect of claiming British records which is coming under increasing pressure in these conservation-minded times. Read more by clicking here.

Tagging scheme seeks to better understand Scottish tuna migration: A new scheme will see tuna in Scottish waters being caught and fitted with satellite tags in order to better understand the migration pattern of this species. Tuna were commonly caught in the waters around the UK until the 1950s, but have made something of a return in the last decade, with a 515lb bluefin tuna caught in Scottish waters in 2013 and many more being observed since then. It is theorised that the tuna in Scottish waters are following mackerel and herring shoals from the Mediterranean and it is hoped that the new tagging scheme will be able to provide more information on their movements. Click here to read more on this story on the BBC News website.

Salmon escape from Scottish fish farm: Around 50,000 salmon have escaped from a Scottish fish farm after open-water pens containing the fish broke free from their moorings during a storm. The incident also saw another 30,000 salmon die. The farm is located at North Carradale on the west coast of Scotland and is owned by Mowi, a Norwegian company which is the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon. The Scottish fish farming industry has been seen as an economic success story and has expanded rapidly in the last few decades. However, this expansion has led to the industry coming under scrutiny due to the environmental impact open-water fish farms have on the marine environment. Issues such as pollution caused by farmed fish, chemical treatments used to control parasite outbreaks in farms and high levels of fish mortality have led to restrictions on the expansion of fish farms and calls for them to operate more sustainably. Read more on this story here.

Participation in angling grows following coronavirus lockdown: The Environment Agency has released information showing that interest and involvement in fishing has increased since the coronavirus lockdown was eased during May. Figures show that the number of freshwater rod licences issued was up by nearly a fifth compared to the same time last year and fishing tackle retailers reported an increased demand for products. The angling industry has benefited from the increased amount of free time many people have due to be furloughed, while people are also keen to go angling due to the fact that the activity can take place with people remaining socially distanced. Read the news from the Environment Agency on their website by clicking here.

Scientists find microplastics in every fish sold at market: Researchers from the Universities of Queensland and Exeter have found evidence of microplastics in every sample of seafood bought from a fish market. The researchers bought sardines, oysters, prawns, crab and squid from a seafood market in an undisclosed location. They then analysed the seafood and found that plastic was present in everything they had bought with sardines being the worst affected with almost 30mg of plastic inside each serving – the equivalent of a grain of rice. Squid, prawns, oysters and crabs all contained between 0.1mg and 0.7mg of plastic per serving. The scientists also found that different species contained different types of plastic, all of which are commonly found in plastic products and packaging and make up a large proportion of ocean pollution. The research was published in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology. The researchers are planning to study exactly how plastic pollution affects animals and humans. Last year a report commissioned by the United Nations warned that larger pieces of microplastic (bigger than 0.15mm) are likely to be passed out of the human body but smaller pieces could be absorbed into organs with as yet unknown impacts on human health. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Huge 295lb sold at Stockport fishmongers: A halibut which was caught in Scottish waters and was on sale at a fishmongers has made national news due to its huge size. The 9ft long halibut weighed around 295lb (134kg) and was caught off the coast of Peterhead, Scotland. The halibut was purchased by Jamie Barrett who owns Marple Fishmongers and The Fisherman’s Table restaurant both in Stockport, Greater Manchester. After taking delivery of the fish he posed for pictures with it and told the Daily Mail that that it was the largest fish he had seen in his twenty-two years in the trade. The halibut was to be filleted and sold at his restaurant for £21 per portion, with the rest of the fish was sold at his fishmongers and to wholesalers. Read more and see pictures of the halibut by clicking here.

Supertrawlers fished for longer in UK’s protected zones lockdown: The lockdown caused by coronavirus meant that many commercial fishermen (and for a while anglers) were unable to go to sea. This does not appear to have been the case with supertrawlers. Greenpeace used tracking data from the supertrawlers own satellite system and overlaid this on maps of the UK’s protected zones. This revealed that supertrawlers spent more time fishing in British protected zones in the first six months of this year than they did in the whole of last year. Calls to ban supertrawlers from UK waters are growing. Earlier this month a number of celebrities, scientists and MPs from across the political spectrum (including Home Secretary Dominic Raab and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn) sent an open letter to the Environment Secretary George Eustice urging him to ban such vessels once the UK leaves the Brexit transition period at the start of next year. Read the full article on this story here.

Illegal drift nets threaten many of Europe’s most vulnerable species: An article in the Guardian this month looked at the issue of illegal drift nets which have been found in many areas of the Mediterranean. Dubbed ‘walls of death’ the nets are made of a very fine mesh and can be 50km (31 miles) in length and 50 metres in height. They are suspended in mid-water underneath buoys and are often placed in the path of migratory fish. The Guardian article states that drift nets are “cheap, profitable and easy to deploy” and remain a common method of commercial fishing for open water species such as swordfish. However, the bycatch levels of such nets are extremely high with Vanya Vulperhorst from Oceana Europe saying “they are indiscriminate in what they trap, and the result is that endangered and protected species are being killed in large numbers.” The article goes on to say that the laws and regulations which govern the use of gill nets are complex and messy with different rules applying in different areas. This makes it easy for unscrupulous fishermen to evade the law and deploy illegal nets. Read the full article on the Guardian website by clicking here.

Two illegal nets recovered from North East river: Last month it was reported that a number of illegal fishing nets had been recovered from the Northumberland coastline at Holy Island. Now two more fishing nets have been recovered from the River Wear in Sunderland. The two nets, both of which were ten metres long, had been set to catch salmon and sea trout which travel up the river to spawn. A further twelve metre net had been removed from the Wear earlier in July. A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said that nets of this type were capable of taking “significant numbers of fish” and can have a “damaging impact on future fish stocks.” Anyone found operating unlicenced nets will have the nets seized and can be prosecuted with an unlimited fine and a prison sentence both available options to the courts. Read more here.

Chinese vessels threaten Galapagos Islands: Many news outlets reported this month on the huge Chinese fishing fleet which is operating near to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The islands, which are part of Ecuador, are a Unesco World Heritage Site and linked to Charles Darwin who was inspired to develop his theory of evolution by the wildlife he saw on the islands in the 1830s. The Galapagos Islands are supposedly protected by a 188-mile exclusive zone but a huge Chinese fleet of around 260 vessels has gathered just outside of this area. Yolanda Kakabadse, an Ecuadorian former Environment Minster, told the Guardian “this fleet’s size and aggressiveness against marine species is a big threat to the balance of species in the Galapagos.” Kakabadse also said that the Ecuadorian government was trying to increase the size of the islands protected zone which would link it up with another zone off the Ecuadorian mainland which would close off a corridor of sea from commercial fishing. The size and catching power of the Chinese fishing industry is becoming a growing issue across most of the world with few believing Chinese claims that they observe the rules and regulations which are in place to protect fish stocks. In 2017 the Ecuadorian Navy and Chinese fishing vessels clashed over fishing near to the Galapagos Islands with a Chinese fishing vessel being detained and boarded and found to have 300 tons of fish on board which was mostly sharks. Click here to read more on this story.