December 2014 – News

This month the big news was that the annual squabble over EU fishing quotas took place. This unedifying spectacle sees European politicians battle to get the largest possible fishing quota for their country, while simultaneously claim that they are protecting fish stocks and fishing within sustainable limits (read our article about the way European fisheries operate by clicking here). Inevitably such a dysfunctional system ended up with quotas being set much higher than scientists advised with the cod quota for example being increased by 5% when all of the scientific advice stated that it should have been cut by 20%. In the extremely short sighted way the European Union and Common Fisheries Policy operates the damaging and unsustainable increases to the amount of fish taken from Britain’s depleted seas was seen as a victory for UK fishermen. A more damaging system to manage Europe’s fisheries is difficult to imagine. Read The Guardian’s take on this topic by clicking here.

The EU also spectacularly failed to provide any protection for bass, despite this species suffering from a frightening reduction in numbers and MPs such as Bernard Jenkin asking questions in parliament about how bass stocks should be rebuilt. ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) has stated that an 80% cut in bass landings was required, while George Eustice, the UK’s Fisheries Minister, had claimed that an “important breakthrough” on bass protection would be announced in December. However, in the end the European Fisheries Council did not announce anything on bass stocks, leaving the long-term future of this hugely important species in some uncertainty. Read the Angling Trust’s response here.

In other depressing news the website reported that tow trawlers in Cork Harbour managed to catch 120,000 mullet with a single tow of their net, wiping the species out from the area. The trawlers moved in when the mullet congregated in the harbour prior to moving offshore for the winter. As a non-quota species there is no protection for mullet and the trawlers were operating within the law. The mullet were likely to be ground into low-value fishmeal, although the local economy will now miss out on the millions of Euros which anglers would have brought to the local economy to fish for these species. Read the full article here.

The deepest living fish ever was discovered this month. The strange looking fish was discovered by the Hadal Ecosystem Studies team at a depth of 8,145 metres, beating the previous record by over 500 metres in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The fish was thought to be a species of snailfish – and may be a new species – although without capturing the fish and taking it to the surface for scientific test this would be impossible to confirm.

Finally this month a seal was found in an unusual location – in a field in Merseyside twenty miles away from the sea. The 5ft long grey seal appeared to have swan twenty miles up the River Mersey and then gotten lost swan through a number of shallow brooks before making its way across fields where it was found by a dog walker. The seal appeared to have a head injury and was acting in a distressed manner and was taken to an RSPCA wildlife hospital. The Daily Mail criticised the number of emergency service personnel who assisted in the capturing of the seal, while RSPCA inspector John Brooks informatively stated: “This is the first time I have ever come across a seal in a field.”