December 2015 – News

This month saw the annual EU negotiations on commercial fishing quotas for next years, and the quotas for several key commercial species were significantly increased. The quota for North Sea cod will rise by 15%, haddock by 47% and the quota for English Channel plaice was doubled. Celtic Sea hake and Westen Channel sole quotas were also increased, while Irish Sea sole and Bristol Channel plaice had their quotas cut. Fishermen also had their days at sea maintained at current levels. The commercial fishing industry were, as expected, very happy with the quota rises with Fisheries Minister George Eustice stating:

“These negotiations are the culmination of months of government-led work to secure the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry.”

While many of the species which have had their quotas increased have benefited from increasing stocks in recent years, many environmentalists believed that the quota increases were happening too soon for stocks which were still recovering from decades of overfishing. Read more here.

The EU negotiations also had significant developments for UK bass anglers. While there had been fears that fishing for bass would be banned for recreational anglers it was in fact announced that bass fishing would still be allowed for recreational anglers but bass would be a catch and release only species from 1st January to 30th June 2016. Following this bass will have a one bass per angler per day limit from 1st July to 31st December 2016. These developments are part of the package of measures which are aimed at reversing the worrying decline in bass stocks which has been happening since 2009. While commercial fishing for bass will also be limited there was consternation among recreational anglers and bass groups that the deeply damaging gill net fisheries would actually get an increase in the amount of bass they were able to catch. Read more from the Save Our Seabass website here.

The fallout from the developments in bass limits continued into December, with Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP and a keen angler himself, expressed outrage at the six month ban on anglers retaining bass. He stated that the UK government should have stood up to the EU regulations and pointed out that the European Commission had voted through the measures meaning that there was nothing the British government could do to stop the regulations. Read the full article here.

Plastic pollution of the world’s seas and oceans has long been a major issue, but there were several developments on this topic this month. Firstly, the US House of Representatives passed legislation which would phase out the use of microbeads. These tiny pieces of plastic are used in a range of products such as shower gels and body washes, but cause immense environmental damage as they are too small to be removed from the sea. There are trillions of microbeads throughout the world’s oceans, and an estimated 90% of the world’s seabirds have ingested some sort of plastic. The US imposing a ban gives hope that British and European governments will also introduce similar legislation in the near future. Read The Guardian’s article on this topic by clicking here.

However, some good news on plastic pollution also emerged this month. A new specially designed floating barrier will be used to clean up plastic pollution off the coast of The Netherlands. The barrier has been developed by the Ocean Cleanup Project and allows fish and other marine creatures to swim through but filters out plastics and other pollutants. The barrier has been successfully tested in freshwater environments but this is the first time that it will be tested in the sea. It is hoped that by 2020 the project will have developed to such an extent that a 62-mile barrier will be used to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an ocean gyre where huge amounts of plastic and other rubbish gather. Read more and see pictures of Ocean Cleanup’s barrier by clicking here.

The strong winds caused by Storm Desmond saw a large number of an unusual jellyfish wash up on some British beaches this month. Velella vellela – more commonly known as the by-the-wind-sailor – floats on the surface of the sea with a stiff ridge acting as a sail and catching the wind to propel the jellyfish around the sea. However, in certain conditions the by-the-wind-sailor is powerless to stop itself being blown onto the shore where it become stranded and dies. A large number of by-the-wind-sailors washed up on beaches around Dorset this month. Although the species is not dangerous to humans people were warned to stay away as other poisonous species of jellyfish, such as the Portuguese man o’ war could also have washed up with the by-the-wind-sailors. See pictures of this here.

A giant squid – a species rarely seen outside of the world’s deepest waters – was filmed in shallow water in a Japanese harbour this month. The squid was 3.7 metres long, relatively small for this species which has been confirmed as growing to 13 metres in length, with evidence suggesting that giant squid in the very deepest parts of the ocean could grow even larger than this. The squid apparently spent several hours swimming in the waters around the harbour before it was guided back out to sea into deeper water. Read The Guardian’s article on this story here.

Tourist authorities in Gran Canaria were stressing that resorts and beaches on the island were open for business as usual after a tourist was attacked by a shark in the water off Arinaga Beach in the El Cabron area of the islands. Cristina Ojeda-Thies was bitten on the arm while swimming, and tweeted a picture of the cuts and puncture wounds the shark inflicted on her arm. Although she needed medical treatment the injuries were not serious with Ojeda-Thies herself stating that she had hurt herself more seriously falling off her bike in the past.