February 2020 – News

Plan to create a dam to enclose the North Sea: A scientist from the Dutch government has revealed plans to create a huge dam which will enclose the North Sea in order protect millions of people in Europe from rising sea levels caused by global warming. Sjoerd Groeskamp from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research has said that the two parts of the dam would be created between Norway and Scotland and France and south-west England and would be called the North Sea Enclosure Dyke. Groeskamp said that the plan was technically viable and would cost between €250 and €500 billion, but this would add up to just 0.1% of the GDP of the fourteen countries which would be protected from rising sea levels by the dam. If such a dam were created it would have huge impacts on the North Sea marine ecosystem: the North Sea would no longer be tidal and would slowly turn into a huge freshwater lake, making it uninhabitable for the marine species which are currently found there and shipping would no longer be able to access the North Sea. For these reasons many see the planned dam as more of a publicity stunt to raise attention about global warming and rising sea levels, although Groeskamp maintains that the dam is a “possible solution.” Read more on this story here.

Abandoned “ghost ship” washed into rocks off Irish coast: A ship which was abandoned at sea two years ago has washed up onto rocks off the coast of Ireland. The ship has been identified as the MV Alta, a Tanzanian-flagged freighter which displaces 2300 tons and is 77 metres long. The Alta was travelling from Greece to Haiti in 2018 when it lost power. The crew stayed on board for twenty days as the Alta drifted around the Atlantic but being unable to repair their vessel and with food and water running low they radioed for help and were rescued by the US Coast Guard ship USCGC Confidence. The Alta then floated aimlessly around the Atlantic for around seventeen months. The only confirmed sighting of the vessel during this time was in August 2019 when the Royal Navy icebreaker HMS Protector spotted the Alta, although the exact location where this happened has not been released. After almost a year and a half of drifting around the Atlantic the Alta eventually ran aground on the rocky coastline of Ballycotton in County Cork at an unknown time on the 15th or 16th of February. What will happen to the vessel is currently unclear as there are complex legal issues around tracking down the owner and establishing who is responsible for the cost of recovering and disposing of the vessel. However, sixty-two barrels of oil have been removed from the Alta using a helicopter and the Irish authorities have set up a series of booms around the wreck to contain any oil which may escape from the Alta if it begins to break up. Read more on this story by clicking here.

The Isle of Arran no take zone leads to revival of marine species: A no take zone set up in Lamlash Bay at the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde has been hailed a major success after marine species in the area have seen significant revival. The 2.67 square kilometer no take zone was established in 2008 and no form of fishing is allowed to take place within the zone. Researchers from the University of York have now found that lobsters and king scallops are four times more abundant inside the zone various forms of seaweed are more abundant and the zone is a nursery area for fish species such as cod. The findings will lead to calls for more of England’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to become no take zones. Currently MPAs receive varying levels of protecting, with trawling and other destructive forms of commercial fishing allowed within many of them. Click here to read more on this story.

BBC checks facts on UK fish discards: An article on the BBC website this moth aimed to fact check claims that the UK threw away a million tons of fish as discards each year due to EU rules. Claims that discards of fish are extremely high due to EU legislation have been made for decades, and Conservative MP and former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson recently reiterated the claims on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, saying UK fishermen were “throwing back a million tonnes of fish dead” every year. The BBC found that there is no single figure for discards. The World Wildlife Fund state that North Sea discards in 2008 were one million tons but this was for all nations who fish in the area, not just the UK. A 2005 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea study in 2005 placed the figure at 500,000 to 800,000 tons, while a University of Exeter study put the North Sea discards figure at 267,000 tons in 2010. The one million ton figure therefore cannot be verified, but levels of discards in the North Sea have certainly been at high levels for several decades. The BBC article also stated that the EU has been phasing out discards since 2016, although there are exceptions and rules which still allow discarding to happen, and there is an issue with illegal discards. Read the full article on the BBC website by clicking here.

Boris Johnson set to clash with EU over fishing deal: The UK officially left the EU at the end of January and is now at the start of an eleven month transition period during which the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU will be negotiated. In terms of fishing there has been much speculation over what form this relationship will take. An article in the Express at the start of this month stated that Boris Johnson was set to reject EU calls for continued fishing access to British waters after the transition period and instead put forward a Norway-style fisheries plan. This would see EU nations having to renegotiate their access to British fishing grounds on an annual basis with talks taking place every December. Such an agreement be welcomed by the UK fishing industry but would be resisted by the EU which will continue to push for automatic access to UK waters. Any fisheries deal between the EU and the UK must be decided by July of this year. Read more on this story by clicking here.

UK to increase maritime patrol defences: The Guardian has, along with other media outlets, reported that the UK has increased the number of maritime patrol vessels it has available. The move, which is seen as evidence that the UK is preparing to take back control of its own waters, has seen two new fisheries inspection vessels be made available, and the number of Royal Navy offshore patrol vessels will increase to seven by the end of the year. In addition to this the Marine Management Organisation which is responsible for English waters can obtain another twenty-two vessels in the case of an emergency, and the government is considering purchasing two surveillance aircraft. While, as stated in the story above, the UK/EU fishery deal is about to be negotiated the strengthening of the UK’s maritime patrol capabilities is seen as a sign that the government is serious about regaining control of British waters post-Brexit. Click here to read more on this story.

Man convicted illegally exporting glass eels: A man has been convicted of smuggling glass eels from the UK to Hong Kong. Seafood salesman Gilbert Khoo, 66, was caught when he was found with 200kg of glass eels concealed within a legitimate shipment of fresh fish at Heathrow airport in 2017. Glass eels are one of the early stages in the life of the European silver eel, a species now classed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. European eels are seen as a delicacy in much of Asia, but it is now illegal to export them out of the European Union. Khoo amassed eels from around Europe in a warehouse facility in Gloucestershire before repackaging them for smuggling to Asia. It is believed he may have exported up to £53 million worth of eels between 2015 and being apprehended in 2017. He will be sentenced in March. Read more on this story here.

RSPCA criticised for Scottish fish farm payments: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has revealed that it has received over £500,000 from Scottish salmon fish farms in order to allow them to be members of its RSPCA Assured food label. The RSPCA’s own website states that this label denotes that food comes from “animals which have had a better life.” Over one hundred fish farms have paid to be members of the scheme. The revelations have caused concern as Scottish fish farming has been heavily criticised due to the impact that waste and pollution from farms has on the marine environment, high levels of fish mortality within farms and the massive amounts of wild caught sandeel and forage fish which are used to feed farmed fish. The wildlife presenter and campaigner Chris Packham, who is vice-president of the RSPCA said on Twitter that fish farming was “fraught with very serious issues and clearly needs reform/regulation/cessation.” He went on to say that he was raising the issue with the organisation and looking for a “renewed position” from them. The RSPCA said that the scheme had increased the welfare of millions of fish and that the payments received for the RSPCA Assured food label were “ploughed back into the running of the scheme and promoting farm animal welfare.” Click here to read more on this story.