January 2020 – News

Bass regulations for 2020 released: Bass measures for the forthcoming year have been announced. For 2020 anglers will only have to fish for bass on a catch and release basis for January, February and December. For the rest of the year anglers will be able to retain two bass per angler per day, as long as they reach the minimum landing size of 42cm. The regulations have been welcomed by anglers and are the least stringent since limitations were placed on both recreational and commercial fishing for bass in 2016 due to falling stock numbers. Commercial fishing limitations have also been eased with the cap on allowable bycatch being raised and the quota for hook and line commercial bass fishing being slightly raised. Read more here.

Fisheries Bill will see UK control its own fishing waters post-Brexit: On the 29th January the UK Fisheries Bill was introduced to Parliament. Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers stated that the legislation would allow the UK to “take[s] back control of our waters” and would “create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for our coastal communities, whilst securing the long-term health of British fisheries”. The bill sets down the legal requirement for fish stocks in British waters to be fished sustainably and in a way which does not cause harm to non-target species such as marine mammals. The bill means that the UK will leave the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and operate as an independent coastal state, with EU nations losing the automatic right to fish in British waters. Read more here. The bill will be welcomed by the UK fishing industry as there had been claims that the UK would have to allow EU access to fishing grounds in order to win concessions on trade and finance deals with the EU. At the start of this month Irish MEP Phil Hogan – who is currently European Commissioner for Trade – was quoted in the Guardian as saying that “there will certainly be trade-offs” and “the EU will be seeking concessions on fishery access and the UK will very probably be seeking concessions on financial services” (read more on this here). However, the fisheries bill shows that the UK will definitely leave the CFP and take back control of its own fishing waters, although there will still be negotiations with the EU over licenced access to British fisheries and trade deals to sell UK catches into the EU, with a deal on fishing needing to be agreed by July 2020.

UK warned: “don’t sacrifice the fish”: Following the above stories making the news the American journalist and novelist Lionel Shriver has warned in the Spectator that the UK should not “sacrifice the fish” in order to get a trade deal with the EU. Shriver points out that a huge amount of the fish eaten in the UK is imported (including species such as cod which are found in UK waters) and sixty per cent of the fish caught in British waters is landed by foreign vessels. Brexit and leaving the Common Fisheries Policy offers a way of resolving these issues and allowing the UK to run its own fisheries in a sustainable way. However, Shriver points out that commercial fishing is relatively economically unimportant to the UK as it “represents only 0.1 per cent of UK GDP, roughly on a par with leather goods, timber and the manufacture of sewing machines.” This, Shriver goes on to say, means that Boris Johnson will be under immense pressure to “to throw a few pilchards to Madrid in exchange for a sweet deal on [financial] services.” Shriver states that this would be a mistake as fishing is an emotional issue and is a “potent symbol of enduring British tradition” and the “unique focus of popular resentment over EU impositions.” Shriver therefore believes it would be a huge mistake to give away fishing rights, saying that the taking back of control of British waters represents a tangible benefit to Brexit which ordinary people can see and understand. She also states that although this would leave the British fishing industry vulnerable to punitive tariffs when it comes to importing catches into the EU fishing deals don’t have to include access stating “the US imports shrimp from south-east Asia, but doesn’t invite Malaysian fishing fleets to pilfer the coast of Louisiana.” Read the full article by Lionel Shriver by clicking here.

“Blue acceleration” serious impacts on the marine environment: An article in this month’s Observer looked at the issue of the increasing industrialisation of the world’s oceans and seabed and the impact that this would have on the marine environment. The article looked at research conducted by Jean-Baptiste Jouffray of Stockholm University which examined the increasing industrialisation of the sea. The research found that activities such as desalination plant construction, fish farming, shipping, cable laying, cruise tourism, the building of offshore wind farms along and seabed mining were all increasing. Jouffray and his co-researchers coined the term “blue acceleration” to describe this process, and stated that it would have far-reaching negative impacts on the marine environment. The researchers pointed out that small countries could have a big impact on the marine environment, such as the Cook Islands which claim an area of sea 1,700 times larger than the nation’s land mass. Norway is another country which could have problems sustaining the health of its waters as it is expanding its fish farming industry, increasing the number of offshore wind farms and marine tourism and also planning to start more oil and gas drilling and begin seabed mining. Read the full article on this story here.

Calls for trawler ban within three miles of the Scottish coastline: Marine and conservation charities have called for trawling to be banned within three miles of the Scottish coastline to allow fish stocks and the marine environment to recover from commercial over-exploitation. The Our Seas organisation (which includes divers, anglers, marine tourism firms, people from coastal communities and conservationists) made the call and have been backed by the National Trust for Scotland. Trawling within three nautical miles of the shoreline was banned in Scottish waters for almost a century, but the ban was lifted in 1984. The campaign aims to re-introduce the ban, along with much stricter regulations for the way fish farms operate and the impact that offshore wind farms have on the environment. Sustainable and low-impact fishing such as using creels and crab and lobster pots would still be allowed close to the shore. It is believed that if introduced the three mile trawling ban would create extra jobs and raise hundreds of millions of pounds for the economy due to better fish stocks and increased marine tourism. Click here to read more on this story.

BBC article on the issue of ghost fishing gear in Scottish waters: The issue of ghost gear and how it affects Scotland’s marine environment was the subject of an article on the BBC website this month. The article stated that it is estimated that more than half a million tons of commercial fishing gear is lost, dumped or abandoned across the world’s seas and oceans each year. Much of this continues to catch and trap fish, potentially for many years or even decades due to the durable materials which modern fishing equipment is made from. This is a problem in many parts of the world and Scotland, being the location of most of the UK fishing industry, is the worst affected nation. The BBC quote Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (Smass) which states that there were twelve cases of animals dying after being entangled in commercial fishing gear in Scottish waters in 2019. These included a pregnant minke whale found on the coast of the Orkney Islands, an entangled dead humpback whale washed ashore near Thurso and a humpback whale which was tangled in fishing gear for “weeks, if not months” before it was found dead on the coast at East Lothian. A number of organisations have begun to take action in response to this. These include the Ghost Fishing Initiative UK which is sending divers to clear up lost fishing gear, workers in the fishing industry being trained to free tangled animals and new technology to allow crab and prawn traps to be lowered to the seabed without ropes being trialled. A spokesperson from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation was quoted in the BBC article as saying that the Scottish fishing fleet lost “very little” gear and that monofilament nets used by Spanish and French gill netters and long-liners were responsible for “bulk of the ghost gear found in the Scottish sector.” Read the full BBC article by clicking here.

End fishing subsidies to save oceans: An article by Annabelle Bladon, a ocean researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development, has called for an end to fishing subsidies. In the article, published in on the Thompson Reuters News website, Bladon states that across the world governments spend an estimated $35 billion (£27 billion) on fishing subsidies with the bulk of payments made to help support long distance, large scale industrial fishing. After two decades of discussions the World Trade Organisation (WTO) pledged to ban fishing subsidies which allowed destructive or harmful fishing to take place by 2019. However, Bladon states that this target has been missed and that billions of dollars of subsidies are still being paid out to subsidise fuel costs and allow developed nations to send industrial fishing vessels to distant water locations. Bladon states that these subsidies encourage overfishing, increase the gap between the fishing capacity of rich and poorer nations and increase carbon emissions. Bladon ends by stating that the WTO needs to “agree a set of rules that ends harmful subsidies meaning fishers will need to adopt more fuel-efficient and environmentally sustainable practices. Subsidy reform would also free up money that governments could invest in rebuilding fish stocks.” Click here to read the full article.

World’s oceans are heating at an accelerating rate: The heating of the world’s oceans reached its fastest rate in 2019, leading to scientists to warn of severe consequences for the oceans and the health of the entire planet unless the process is reversed. Oceans provide a guide to how fast the entire planet is heating as they absorb ninety per cent of the heat created by human activities. Scientists writing in the academic journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences have warned that hotter oceans mean an increasing number of marine heatwaves, changing distribution of fish species, a higher number of storms and floods and the rising of sea levels. Read more on this story here.