February 2018 – News

UK angler breaks record for shore caught halibut in Norway: A UK angler landed a 153lb 8oz halibut when fishing from the shore in Norway, smashing the previous record of 111lb. David Wood-Brignall, a 46-year-old carpenter from Kent was fishing in Bodo, which is just north of the Arctic Circle. He caught the fish in after a 35-minute battle, and described how the fish took 100 to 150 metres of line on its first run before he was able to begin reeling it in. The catch is currently awaiting verification but once this process has been completed it will be confirmed as the world record for a shore caught halibut. Read more and see pictures by clicking here.

UK fishermen will be “powerless bystanders in their own waters” in Brexit transition phase: The UK is set to leave the EU next year and it is still unclear how Britain will manage its fisheries after it leaves. There are currently plans for a two-year transition phase following the UK formally leaving the EU in March 2019. There are claims from the EU that the UK will have to continue following CFP rules during this period, despite the UK losing all voting rights and having no say in setting the rules. However, Scottish fisheries chiefs have hit back at this saying the UK should quit the CFP on the day the UK leaves the EU. Spokesmen for the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association (SWFPA) and Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA), who between them represent over three-hundred fishing boats said that such a course of action would be “completely unacceptable” as it would “relegate our fishermen to the status of powerless bystanders in their own waters.” The SFA chief executive Simon Collins said that following EU fishing rules during the transition phase “Would not be an extension of the status quo – it would be far worse, as we would be powerless to prevent non-UK fleets hammering our fish stocks during the implementation period … We insist on full control over access to our waters and the management of our fisheries as an independent coastal state from March 2019, when we withdraw from the EU and CFP.” Read more here. However, this news was followed by a story in the Express which said that Theresa May had agreed with environment secretary (and prominent Brexiteer) Michael Gove that it would be unfair for British fishermen to have to follow EU rules during the transition phase, and had therefore agreed to take a “firm stance” and reject the call for UK fishermen to follow EU rules on catches, fishing methods and quotas when the UK was no longer a member of the European Union. Read more on this story here.

UK fishing industry will be better off whichever Brexit scenario happens: A leaked report has stated that the British fishing industry will be in a better position whichever situation Britain ends up in after leaving the European Union. Former Prime Minister David Cameron had claimed that the UK fishing industry would be “better off” within the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, but the report disproves that theory. The report was compiled by the Treasury and leaked to Buzzfeed last month. It says that leaving the EU with no trade deal – an outcome which is seen as the hardest of Brexit scenarios – would free the UK fishing industry of governance from Europe and allow British territorial waters to be reclaimed. However, even the softest of Brexit options, such as remaining a member of the EEA (European Economic Area) would leave the industry better off as EEA membership does not cover fisheries, still allowing the UK to regain control of British waters. Read more on this story here.

Changing sea temperatures could force fish from British waters: A story by the Reuters news agency about the way in which climate change could affect the commercial fish caught in British waters was picked up by a number of media outlets this month. The article said that the British sea fishing industry could be “on the hook” post-Brexit as many of the most popular commercial fish such as cod and haddock could move away from UK waters and towards the colder waters of Norway and Iceland if sea temperatures continue to rise. The article also stated that the UK fishing industry sells 75% of its catch to EU nations within the single market and that after Brexit trade tariffs of 24% could be placed on seafood. The article fails to mention that popular food fish such as pilchards and sardines would be moving into UK waters in much greater numbers as sea temperatures rise, and that as a non-EU country Britain would be able to sell its seafood catches to outside of the EU in much greater numbers that happens now. Read the full article by clicking here.

Dutch fishing industry fights to overturn ban on pulse trawling: Last month we reported that MEPs in the European Parliament had voted to ban pulse trawling, a form of commercial fishing which uses electricity to shock fish out of the seabed and into the nets of trawlers. The Dutch fishing industry is now fighting to overturn the ban, having spent huge sums of money developing pulse trawling and converting a large number of their vessels to fish with pulse fishing gear. The EU had officially banned fishing with electricity, but a number of increasingly generous exemptions for so-called research purposes allowed a growing number of mostly Dutch fishing vessels be fitted with the equipment. The Dutch claim that as pulse gear is lighter it is better for the environment, causes less damage to the seabed and trawlers use less fuel and therefore have lower carbon emissions. However, environmentalists and fishermen opposed to pulse trawling point out that little research has been done into the impact of sending electric pulses into the seabed, and there are fears that pulse trawling kills non-target fish and smaller animals such as worms and shellfish which are buried in the seabed. It is also claimed that the fuel saving is the real reason that fishermen are so keen on pulse trawling, with the cost of converting a conventional beam trawler to a pulse trawling soon being made back through lower fuel costs. An article in the website Politico outlines how the Dutch fishing industry is fighting back against the ban on pulse trawling, releasing an infographic which outlines the lower fuel usage and lower bycatch levels which pulse trawling allegedly produces. Dutch politicians are also on a charm offensive to demonstrate that pulse trawling is safe, with Dutch MEP Annie Schreijer-Pierik putting her hand into an aquarium fitted with pulse fishing gear as part of a publicity stunt with Dutch fisherman’s leader Pim Visser. The Politico article says that it is French fishermen, backed up by their European counterparts who have led the fight against pulse trawling. It remains to be seen if the Dutch will be successful in overturning the opposition to pulse trawling and having the ban overturned. Read the full article by clicking here.

Pro-European news outlet says that Brexit may be bad for British fishing industry: A heavily pro-EU newspaper has claimed that Brexit could harm the UK fishing industry, despite many news outlets claiming this month that both hard and soft Brexit scenarios would benefit the UK fishing industry. The claim came in the New European, a weekly newspaper which refers to itself as the “pop-up paper for the 48%.” The article claims that the reduction of trading opportunities with European nations which may follow leaving the EU would hit the British fishing industry, although the paper fails to address the advantages which would come with Britain being able to reclaim its territorial waters (and fish them sustainably) and strike trade deals to sell British seafood catches to other nations. The article also fails to point out that the only European nations which have plentiful seafood stocks are Norway and Iceland, both of which has chosen to stay out of the Common Fisheries Policy and the entire EU to ensure that they can maintain this. The article also shows a worrying lack of knowledge about the conservation status of species found around the British Isles, pointing out in positive terms that vessels are fishing for deep sea species such as grenadier, a species classed Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Click here to read the article.

Amazon criticised for allowing sale of live lobsters: Online retail giant Amazon has been heavily criticised for allowing the sale of live lobsters on its website. The creatures are described as being “mouth-watering” and cost £42.50 each. Amazon does not directly sell the lobsters but allows them to be sold on its website by London-based company Fine Food Specialist. The lobsters may spend as long as a week stored in containers as they are transported to customers, with the sale of the live creatures provoking an outcry from both animal rights groups and Amazon customers. Countries such as Switzerland have passed laws banning crabs and lobsters from being boiled alive, and the environmental group Crustacean Compassion (which as celebrity backers such as wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham and comedian Bill Bailey) is campaigning for similar laws to be implemented in the UK. Read more by clicking here.

Hammerhead shark catch in Florida causes controversy: A video of a hammerhead shark being reeled onto a Florida beach has sparked outrage amongst animal rights campaigners and conservationists, and federal charges may follow for the anglers who caught it. The incident took place on the beach at Singer Island in Florida, and was filmed by a diver who was in a boat nearby. The shark was hooked by anglers who spent forty-five minutes to reel the shark in and then struggled to remove the hook. The shark was eventually released but reportedly died shortly after. The anglers could potentially be charged with an offence as it is illegal to fish for hammerhead sharks under the state laws of Florida, although no offence had been reported to the US authorities at the time of writing. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Why the great white shark is not a man eating monster: An article on the BBC website this month looked into why the great white shark is not the man eating monster it is often portrayed as. The article states that ever since the film Jaws was released in the 1970s the great white shark has suffered from an image problem where it is seen as a “mindless eating machine” which “lives to kill.” However, in reality great white sharks are “calm and peaceful” creatures which feed mostly on fish and marine mammal species. There are also remarkably few shark attacks on humans. In Western Australia for example, an area often seen as a world hotspot for great white sharks, there have only been thirteen fatalities attributed to great white sharks since the year 1870. Read more on this story by clicking here.

New maps show huge impact of commercial fishing: New maps which show where commercial fishing boats are active across the world’s seas and oceans have highlighted the massive impact that commercial fishing has on the world’s marine ecosystems. Researchers from Global Fishing Watch complied tracking data from tens of thousands of fishing vessels across the world to create the study. This is now being seen as an example of ‘big data’ (huge amounts of information gathered from multiple sources) being used to investigate how commercial fishing boats operate across the world, something which has up until now been extremely difficult to do. The study produced some striking findings. At least 55% of the world seas and oceans are being fished. This is an area four times greater than the amount of land which is used for agriculture, but due to limitations in the study the actual amount of the oceans that are being fished could be closer to 73%. The study reported that huge areas of oceans were being intensively fished on a regular basis. This fishing intensity is far higher than researchers have been able to track in previous studies, meaning that far greater pressure is being put on fish stocks than has previously been realised. Further striking findings emerged from the study, such as the fact that just five nations (Spain, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and China) account for 85% of global fishing, and fishing vessels across the world covered 460 million miles and spent 40 million hours at sea in 2016 alone. It was also found that the major issues which caused fishing to cease were national holidays and fishing bans in specific areas, rather than weather patterns. World renowned fisheries expert Professor Daniel Pauly welcomed the study and said that it made the case for all fishing vessels – not just those large vessels which fish far offshore – being fitted with tracking devices. Click here to read more on this story.

Plastic straws could be banned according to Environment Secretary: Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has said that plastic straws could be banned in order to protect the marine environment. There are an estimated 8.5 billion straws used in the UK every year, and they are regularly one of the most commonly found items on British beaches. Recent months have seen some companies – such as the UK’s biggest pub chain JD Wetherspoons – switch from plastic to environmentally friendly plastic straws. Michael Gove had said that banning plastic straws would be easier once the UK leaves the EU, saying no specific proposal – as yet – from the EU to ban straws.” This appeared to cause something of a diplomatic spat, with Frans Timmermans, the Vice-President of the European Commission, tweeting to Michael Gove saying “One step ahead of you. EU legislation on single-use plastics coming before the summer.” He added the somewhat childish hashtag “#EUdoesntsuck.” Read more on this story here.

How “lasers and robo-feeders” are changing fish farming: An article on the BBC website this month looked into the ways in which the multi-million pound fish farming business had become technologically advanced in order to maximise production and profits. The article looked at how a Norwegian fish farm had adopted a hydro-acoustic system which could tell when fish needed to be fed and when they stopped feeding by the amount of noise they made in the water. The system, developed by a company called CageEye, could improve profits by up to £900,000 a year for the fish farms that used it. Other systems used CCTV and computer algorithms (rather than people watching the CCTV images) to see how much feed to give to fish, and the extent of parasite infections – something which has plagued the industry in recent years. Indeed, a new system may be implemented soon which would use lasers to rid salmon of sea lice while leaving the fish completely unharmed. The BBC article also looked at Ocean Farm 1, a 110 metre wide floating structure which is capable of holding 1.5 million fish. The article highlights the advanced technology now used in fish farming and the huge sums of money this industry generates – around 100 million tons of fish are produced by fish farms annually, and fish farming is worth £4.6 billion to the Norwegian economy alone. Read more by clicking here.

Large proportion of deep sea fish have ingested microplastics: A report released this month has found that almost three quarters of deep sea fish in the north west Atlantic have ingested microplastics. The research was compiled by scientists at the National University of Ireland in Galway and found that 73% fish caught at depths of 600 metres had microplastics in their bodies. The findings of the report are worrying as it shows that plastic pollution is not limited to the upper levels of the ocean, and even deep sea fish are affected by microplastics. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Plastic waste is building up in the Arctic, according to scientists: The supposedly pristine environment of the Norwegian Artic is being contaminated by high levels of plastic waste, the vast majority of which is caused by discarded commercial fishing gear, according to a report by the Norwegian Polar Institute. Researchers found plastic almost everywhere they looked and found 234 particles of plastic in just one litre of Artic sea ice – a far higher level than that found in the open ocean. It is believe that the Arctic is particularly badly affected by plastic pollution as plastic floats on the surface meaning that it is bonded to sea Artic sea ice as it is formed. Plastic ropes, discarded fishing nets and other forms of commercial fishing gear were the source of much of the plastic pollution. Norway’s environment minister Ola Elvestuen told the BBC that previous generations of politicians had failed to understand the extend of the problem of plastic pollution in the Norwegian Arctic, and the Norwegian fishing industry may lose its reputation for its fish coming from waters untouched by pollution unless action was taken to resolve the situation. Read more on this story by clicking here.

The way the world fishes “defies all economic logic”: An article in the digital news outlet Quartz has claimed that the way the world catches fish defies all economic logic, and called for a total rethink of the way global fishing fleets operate. The article draws on a new study from the World Bank and asks how worldwide catches have remained steady at around eighty-five million tons a year despite fish stocks across the planet falling to lower and lower levels. The answer is that more and more effort in the form of more boats, more fuel, increasingly powerful engines and more effective fish finding technology have had to be used to maintain catches at this level. There are also more fishing vessels and more fishermen – the global fishing fleet has doubled in the last four decades. The report goes on to say that this situation can only be sustained due to the huge amount paid out in subsidies to commercial fishermen by national governments. Out of 139 countries surveyed in the World Bank report only 64 generated profits from their fishing industry. The other 74 ran at a loss and required government subsidies to survive. The Quartz article referred to these fishing fleets as “zombies, unprofitable enterprises kept on life support by government subsidies.” By financially propping up unprofitable and loss making fisheries national governments are actively reducing fish stocks and allowing more fish to be taken than can be regenerated by natural populations. Click here to read the full article.

P&O Cruises criticised for ‘firing plastic confetti into the ocean’: The Sun reported this month that during a party on board the P&O cruise liner Arcadia thousands of plastic confetti pellets were fired into the ocean. P&O initially told the Sun that the PVC pellets were biodegradable, with passengers who questioned the company being similarly “fobbed off.” However, after being “repeatedly challenged” by the Sun P&O admitted that the “wrong confetti” had been used and the situation was “unacceptable” and would not be repeated. The Sun added that the actions of P&O were in breach of pollution laws and the hypocrisy of the company was highlighted by the fact they had a scientist on board giving “green lectures.” Read more on this story by clicking here.

Warning that slavery could be prevalent in UK scallop fishing industry: An article in the Guardian this month warned that modern day slavery and bonded labour may be widespread across the UK’s scallop fishing industry. A register of slavery complied by the Monterey Bay Aquarium – a prominent American marine conservation charity – highlighted the giant and queen scallop fisheries in Britain at high risk of using slave labour. There is evidence to back this up: in December last year nine crew members from Asian and Africa were taken from scallop fishing boats after being identified as victims of modern day slavery and two fishing boat skippers, one from Scotland and one from the Liverpool area were detained by police. There are other suspected uses of slavery in the shellfish industry dating back to 2012. Bertie Armstrong, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said that slavery was “abhorrent and the fishing industry will not tolerate it.” Read more on this story here.

Call for further study into effects of plastic pollution on ocean giants: A study in an academic journal has called for greater research into the impact of plastic pollution on large filter feeding species such as sharks and whales. The call was made in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution and said that species such as manta rays, fin whales and whale sharks may be consuming large amounts of plastic as they filter feed in areas of the ocean which are affected by high levels of microplastic pollution. Many of these are classed as “charismatic and economically important species” which attract tourists to areas, while others, such as whale sharks are threatened with extinction. Research indicates that fin whales in the Mediterranean are consuming around 2,000 microplastic particles a day, while larger plastics are a growing issue, with a whale found washed up on a beach in France having an incredible 800kg of plastic inside its body, according to the BBC. Read the full article by clicking here.