January 2022 – News

Footage shows fishing vessel dumping ten tons of bass into the sea: Shocking footage obtained by the Telegraph showed ten tons of bass (an estimated 5,500 – 10,000 individual fish) being dumped into the English Channel. The footage showed a fisherman cutting open a huge net to release the fish, the vast majority of which would have been dead or dying, back into the sea as discards. The vessel uses a controversial new method of fishing called fly-shooting which sees a vast net around whole shoals of fish. It is believed the vessel, which is named the Lub Senior and registered in the Netherlands, caught the bass inadvertently while fishing for other species and therefore had to discard the fish. Its owner, Kees Taal, was quoted in the Telegraph as saying “avoiding bycatch is an issue for all fishery methods used in the world and the sector is working to reduce it as much as possible.” However, Fiona Nicholls from Greenpeace UK said: “We must put the recovery of ocean life at the heart of our fishing policy … industrial fishing methods like fly-shooting do the precise opposite of that, and this footage is yet further proof that fly-shooters cannot operate within sustainable limits.” There are currently seventy-five boats that are licenced to carry out fly-shooting in UK waters. Seventeen are registered as British and the rest are French, Dutch and Belgian. Read more on this story here.

Super-trawlers fish off the coast of Cornwall: Two of the largest super-trawlers in the world, the 7,100-ton Afrika and the 6,100-ton Zeeland have been fishing in the English Channel this month. The vessels spent sixteen hours fishing around fifteen miles off the coast of Padstow and then move up towards Bude. The website Cornwall Live stated that local fishermen and conservationists believed that the vessels would “scoop up everything that swims” and threaten dolphins and whales. The vessels have licences to fish in European waters and there is no suggestion that they are breaking any rules or regulations. Read more by clicking here.

Opinion article in Guardian looks at lost commercial fishing gear: An article by the prominent environmentalist George Monbiot on the damage caused by lost commercial fishing gear was published in the Guardian this month. Monbiot wrote that a commercial fisherman (who remained anonymous) came to him and revealed the damage caused by lost and abandoned commercial fishing nets. The fisherman told Monbiot that French and Spanish vessels came into Scottish ports to land fish, but none of the estimated twenty cubic metres of rubbish that would have been generated during their time at sea is taken ashore. The same is true of the miles and miles of gillnets which are taken to sea but are never seen being returned with the vessel. The implication is that all of this rubbish is disposed at sea, with Monbiot stating that many lost gillnets are recovered with the expensive components such as floats, weights and hooks removed. Lost commercial fishing nets are often referred to as ‘ghost nets’ as they continue to catch fish long after they have been abandoned. While there are laws to ban gillnets close to the Scottish coastline these laws do not apply to non-UK vessels more than twelve miles off the coast, with this area being described by the fisherman as “bandit territory” as “UK law does not apply.” Monbiot goes on to say that despite commercial fishing gear making up ninety per cent of ocean plastics in some parts of Scotland there are no studies into where abandoned commercial fishing gear comes from, and this lack of data tends to mean there is no interest in the issue from the government. Click here to read more on this story.

Concerns over king crab becoming an invasive species: There are concerns that king crab could become an invasive species in British waters and have a serious impact on other species found around the UK. King crab is native to North American waters but was artificially introduced to Russia in the 1960s to create a fishery for this species. They have since spread through European waters but have mostly been absent from the UK until now. An article in the Guardian said that the presence of king crab had divided opinion among UK fishermen. Some were excited by the opportunity to catch this species, with reports that some fishermen had already purchased larger pots to trap king crabs. Others, however, were concerned that king crabs could kill off highly valuable native species such as brown crabs and scallops due to their much larger size and ability to rapidly reproduce. Read more on this story by clicking here.

First tuna of the season sells for low price at Japanese auction: Every January the symbolic first tuna auction of the year is carried out in Tokyo at Toyosu Fish Market. Purchasing the first tuna of the New Year is associated with luck and prosperity in Japanese culture (as well as bringing a great deal of publicity) and the auction can therefore see incredible prices being reached which are far beyond the true market value of the tuna. In 2019 the record price of ¥333.6 million yen (£2.2 million) was paid by Kiyoshi Kimura, a Japanese businessman and restaurateur who is known as the ‘Tuna King.’ This year Yamayuki, a food wholesale company which supplies high-end seafood restaurants, won the auction, but the winning bid was only ¥16.9 million yen (£107,600). This was the third year in a row in which the winning bid had fallen, with the lack of demand for seafood and a high number of restaurants closed due to the coronavirus pandemic being blamed for the relatively low winning bid. Read more here.

Huge ocean sunfish observed off Cornish coast: An ocean sunfish was seen in Ramsgate Harbour in Kent this month. The species can grow to huge sizes and weights of over 2,850lbs (1,300kg) making it one of the largest bony fish species in the world. Sunfish are usually found in tropical and sub-tropical waters but have been spotted with increasing regularity in British waters, possible as a result of warming seas due to climate change. Read more and see pictures of the sunfish by clicking here.

Move to protect cod in the Firth of Clyde angers commercial fishermen: Fishermen have hit out at new measures to protect cod in the Firth of Clyde during the spawning season. For the last two decades fishermen have supported a plan which sees the area closed to commercial fishing from mid-February to the end of April to allow cod to spawn. However, creels and dredges which are used to catch shellfish and langoustines have still been allowed to operate during this period, but the Scottish government has now removed this exemption. The Clyde Fishermen’s Association reacted to the news with anger saying that the decision would have a “horrific impact on the fishing families of the Clyde” and that it would mean a “total loss of income for many of the small family boats for months.” But ocean conservation charities welcomed the news with Phil Taylor from Open Seas saying the Scottish government had “righted a long-standing fault in fisheries management in the Clyde”, and Mark Russell, environment spokesman for the Scottish Green Party said: “Fisheries protection must be led by the science, and it’s clear that this decision is the right one.” The Scottish government said the reason for removing the exemption was that cod stocks had shown little sign of recovery during the decades in which the exemption for shellfish dredges was permitted. Read more on this story here.