February 2019 – News

Updated bass fishing rules for 2019: The regulations which will govern how recreational anglers fish for bass have been confirmed for 2019. Anglers will only be permitted to fish for bass on a catch-and-release basis in January, February and March and then again in November and December. From 1st April to 31st October anglers will be allowed to retain one bass (provided it is over the minimum size limit of 42cm) per day. Click here to read about these regulations on the official UK government website.

Restaurant owners fined for illegal fishing: Two men have been fined after admitting to illegal fishing offences. Tran Doan and Tran Hoang were handed fines of £500 and £1500 court costs when they plead guilty to removing bass from a protected area and retaining undersize bass at Poole Magistrates Court. Doan, who is the owner of the Eat Pho restaurant in Bournemouth, was confronted by angler Steve Cullen in last summer when he caught them with a bucket of undersized bass. Cullen filmed the men who were driving a vehicle with the restaurant’s logo written down the side and uploaded the footage to Facebook. The court heard that 40kg of fish were landed but there was no evidence that any illegally caught fish had been served at the restaurant. Read more on the BBC website by clicking here.

Anglers ‘must not be equal to commercial fishermen’: Inshore fishermen’s groups have called on George Eustice (when he was still fisheries minister – see story below) to reject the move to give recreational anglers equal status with commercial fishermen. The commercial fishing groups are unhappy that a parliamentary select committee has taken evidence from the Angling Trust that recreational fishing should be included as a ‘direct user stakeholder’ when fishing policy is decided and that the forthcoming Fisheries Bill should promote sustainable public access to recreational fishing opportunities. In a letter to George Eustice (which has been endorsed by a number of commercial fishing groups) the commercial fishermen have stated that amendments to the Fisheries Bill which promote recreational angling should not be made without carefully considering how this will impact on the existing licenced commercial fishing fleet. They also say that there is no existing regulatory body in place to monitor catch levels of sea anglers and want assurances that classing recreational angling on the same basis as commercial fishing will not unduly affect or disadvantage commercial fishermen. It is also claimed that some MPs have uncritically endorsed the Angling Trust’s views and ignored the commercial fishing sector. Read the full article on the Fishing News website by clicking here.

Fisheries minister George Eustice quits: George Eustice has quit as the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food over Theresa May’s plans to allow MPs to vote on delaying Brexit if her deal is rejected by parliament. Eustice, MP for Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall is a prominent Brexiteer. He stated that it was “dangerous” for the UK to “beg [the EU] for an extension” and that refusing to walk away without a deal could lead to a long delay before Brexit happened or no Brexit at all. At the time of writing a new fisheries minister has yet to be appointed. Read more by clicking here.

Irish anglers to take part in bluefin tuna research: Anglers fishing in Ireland’s waters are set to be permitted to catch bluefin tuna as part of a scientific research project. The move is significant as Ireland does not have a quota to catch bluefin tuna, meaning that anglers were previously banned from catching or even targeting bluefin tuna under all circumstances. The project will involve fifteen vessels with trained tagging operators onboard targeting bluefin tuna. UK angling groups have welcomed the move as it is seen as a softening of the strict rules banning anglers for catching bluefin tuna, and adds weight to the calls anglers have made to be able to catch bluefin tuna on a catch-and-release basis. Read more here.

Northern Irish fishing boats impounded by Irish navy: Two Northern Irish fishing boats have been detained by the Republic of Ireland’s navy for allegedly contravening fishing regulations. The Northern Irish boats, Amity and The Boy Joseph, were fishing for crabs and shellfish near Dundalk Bay when they were stopped by the Irish navy’s Peacock-class patrol ship LÉ Orla and escorted to Clogherhead in County Louth. The incident happened after a gentleman’s agreement which allowed the two nations access to fish in each other’s waters collapsed in 2016 after it was challenged by Irish fishermen in the country’s Supreme Court. This now means that Northern Irish vessels are banned from fishing within six miles of the Irish coastline, but Irish vessels can still fish within Northern Ireland’s six mile zone. MPs in Westminster have asked the Irish government to explain why the Northern Irish fishing boats were impounded. Read more on this story here.

Bacteria could stop Second World War bombs from harming marine life: A German university has claimed that Second World War bombs and explosives which are poisoning sea life could be made safe with bacteria. Researchers at Kiel University have proposed that microbes could break down TNT into carbon dioxide and water, potentially making lost munitions safe and stopping them from poisoning the marine environment. An estimated 300,000 tons of explosives were lost or dumped into the Baltic Sea by the British, German, Soviet and American navies during the Second World War, and research has shown that mussels in the area are accumulating toxins and flatfish such as dab have higher rates of some types of cancer, highlighting that the weapons are leaking toxic substances. The scientists at Kiel University are calling for funding to progress with their plans to cultivate bacteria which could be used to make the bombs safe. Click here to read more.

Europol become involved in Malta tuna scandal: The Times of Malta has reported that police officers from the country have visited the headquarters of Europol in the Hague to discuss the tuna laundering issues which have become increasingly prominent in the country. Last year Europol carried out Operation Tarantelo, a crackdown on illegal tuna fishing and trading which saw seventy-nine people arrested and 80,000 kilos of Bluefin tuna seized. The tuna was mostly sold in the Spanish market but much of it was caught in Maltese waters or farmed in fish farms around Malta’s coast. None of the arrests were of Maltese nationals, and there are claims that Spain and Malta are failing to fully co-operate over the issue of illegal tuna fishing, hampering investigations and allowing illegal trade to continue. The Maltese tuna industry has long been dogged by claims of corruption and wrongdoing, with the Times of Malta claiming that the latest findings were the “tip of the iceberg.” Read more on this story here.

“Unusual” number of dead animals washed up on Bournemouth beach: An unusually high number of dead animals have washed up on a beach near to Bournemouth, sparking fears that oil drilling in nearby Poole Bay may be causing harm to marine creatures. A porpoise, seal and common dolphin have all be found washed up dead in the area in recent months. Bournemouth Council have stated that the animal deaths were “unfortunate” but had “nothing to do with the arrival of the oil rig.” Any animals which are washed up on the beach in the future will either have samples taken or have a necropsy performed on them to try and establish the cause of death. Read more here.

CNN looks at the issue of Brexit and Fishing: An article on the American news network CNN has examined why fishing is such a major issue in the Britain’s Brexit process. While pointing out that commercial fishing acdcounts for only a tiny part of the UK’s economy – around 0.12 per cent – the article states that fishing has an “outsized presence” in the Brexit debate. The article looks at a range of views on fishing and Brexit and hears from fishermen, fish traders and restaurants which buy British-caught fish. Read the article by clicking here.

Iceland announced plans for whale catches: Authorities in Iceland have announced plans to kill 2000 whales over the next five years, with over 200 fin whales and the same number of minke whales being caught every year until 2023. The announcement comes despite falling demand for whale meat, public opinion turning against whale hunting and an international ban on large-scale whaling. It had been hoped by many in the anti-whaling and conservation community that Iceland would fall in line with the rest of the world and scale back or even end its whale hunting industry. The latest news has left these hopes dashed, with the Icelandic government pointing to the alleged economic benefits of whaling and claiming that populations of once-endangered species of whale were recovering. Iceland has continued to catch whales despite the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banning the practice. Last year Japan left the IWC entirely in order to be able to continue hunting whales. Click here to read more on this story.

Humpback whale in the Amazon leads to confusion: A young humpback whale was found washed up on an island in the Amazon River in Brazil, at a time of the year when they should be thousands of miles away in the cold waters of the Arctic. The eight metre long (26ft) whale was found in mangroves on Marajo Island when an unusually high number of scavenging birds were seen flying around its carcass. One theory put forward to explain the presence of the whale is that it was a calf which became separated from its mother and became lost, whereas others have claimed that it may have become suffocated after consuming plastic. A necropsy was set to be carried out to try and establish the cause of death of the humpback whale. Read more by clicking here.

Japan on alert after ‘earthquake fish’ wash up across coastline: Seven giant oarfish have washed up on the coast of Japan this month, sparking fears that an earthquake or tsunami may be imminent. There is a long-running superstition in many Asian cultures that giant oarfish beaching themselves is a sure sign that an earthquake is coming, leading to this species alternative name of earthquake fish. However, scientists and seismologists have dismissed the fears, stating there is no scientific evidence of a link between giant oarfish beaching and earthquakes. Giant oarfish are one of the most mysterious species of fish in the world, with human understanding of their feeding, migration and life cycle being extremely limited. Read more on this story by clicking here.

New laws could protect sharks in Hawaiian waters: Sweeping new laws could make killing sharks in the waters around Hawaii illegal, with capturing or harming sharks also becoming a misdemeanour offence. Sharks are essential to Hawaii’s marine ecosystem, but conservationists claim that there are numerous threats to sharks in the waters around Hawaii. These included as big game fishing for sharks, the use of sharks as bait for commercial fishermen and the illegal fishing of sharks in Hawaii’s waters due to rising value of shark fins, all of which mean that further protection for sharks is essential. The appropriately-named Ocean Ramsay, a Hawaii-based shark conservationist and diver is an advocate for shark protection in Hawaiian waters and pictures of her swimming with one of the largest great white sharks ever recorded went viral last month. Ramsay said: “These animals have been around for 450m years, and during my lifetime so many of them will go extinct,” she said. “I want it to stop. It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to future generations.” Read more by clicking here.

Shark DNA could hold cure for cancer: New research has revealed that great white shark DNA contains mutations which protect the species from cancer and other illnesses, leading to hopes that this could have applications in curing diseases in humans. The research was carried out by a shark research centre which is part of the University of Florida, with scientists there finding that sharks can effectively repair their own DNA in a way which humans cannot. The study’s co-leader Dr Mahmood Shivji said that shark DNA could be “potentially be useful to fight cancer and age-related diseases, and improve wound-healing treatments in humans, as we uncover how these animals do it.” Click here to read the full BBC article on this story.

Microplastics found to carry toxins harmful marine life and harm humans: A study has found that microplastics found in the sea can carry a range of toxins which can poison marine life and harm humans. The findings were made by scientists from the National University of Singapore when they analysed 275 pieces of microplastic which had been collected from the coastline of the country. They discovered that more than 400 different types of bacteria were found on the microplastics, including vibrio bacteria which is a major cause of infections and acrobacteria which causes gastroenteritis. It is not known what effect the bacteria would have on humans who eat fish which have consumed plastics containing the bacteria. Emily Curren, one of the co-authors of the study added that the microplastics gathered for the study were all taken from areas which were easily accessible to the public and some from areas which were used for recreation. Read more here.

Microplastics linked to spreading invasive species around the world: In a related news story plastic pollution has been found to be responsible for transporting invasive species around the world, potentially damaging marine ecosystems across the planet. Prof Jim Carlton of Williams College in the US made the discovery when he found hundreds of species which are usually native to Asia along the coastline of the US mainland and Hawaii following the Japanese tsunami in 2011. He worked out that species of crab, shellfish and ever large fish were effectively hitching rides on larger pieces of plastic debris, allowing them to cross entire oceans and potentially establish themselves in new areas. Non-native species can carry diseases which local populations have no defence against. They can also outcompete native species for food or crowd them out due to sheer weight of numbers. Professor Carlton likened the issue to “ecological roulette” and said that there was growing research that more and more species were being found in parts of the world where they were previously absent. Read more about this story by clicking here.

Wrasse recognising its own reflection suggests higher intelligence in fish: Humans may have to reconsider how intelligent fish are after a new study found that a species of wrasse could recognise its own reflection in a mirror. Only the most intelligent of animals, such as apes, marine mammals and corvids (members of the crow family) have been known to pass the so-called ‘mirror-test’ in the past. However, Alex Jordan of the Max Planck Institute in Germany found that a cleaner wrasse species (Labroides dimidiatus) initially attacked its own reflection in a mirror, before apparently working out what the mirror was and realising that it was seeing its own image reflected back at itself. There is a strong belief that fish are near the bottom of the animal world when it comes to intelligence but recent research suggests that this may not be the case (see the recently published book What a Fish Knows by Jonathan Balcombe). However, Alex Jordan added that the test did not prove that the wrasse were “self-aware” or that they were “as smart as chimpanzees” but it did throw the presumed hierarchy of animal intelligence into question. Read more on this story here.

Dramatic great white shark photos taken off the coast of Australia: Photos of a great white shark lunging at a camera were released in the media this month. Taken off the coast of Australia at Neptune Island on the country’s south coast the images show the shark bearing its teeth as it lunges forward towards a camera and then tries to bite the corner of a shark cage. The images were captured by diver Luke Thom and his friend Andrew Fox. Neptune Island is an area where great white sharks are commonly spotted as they are attracted to the area to feed on immature seals which were born earlier in the year. Click here to view the images.

Two arrests made at Zagreb Airport over eel smuggling: Two people have been arrested at Zagreb airport in Croatia on suspicion of smuggling 250,000 live eels out of the county. Associated Press reported that the unnamed pair were South Korean nationals aged 38 and 47 and were arrested when they were found with eight cases containing the live eels which could have been worth more than $200,000. European silver eels are a delicacy in Asia but their numbers have been severely reduced in recent decades due to overfishing, barriers being put in the way of migration and climate change. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature have placed European silver eels in their highest category of critically endangered, and regulations have been put in place to protect the species, such as making it a criminal offence to export silver eels out of the EU. Read more on this story by clicking here.