July 2018 – News

UK to ‘take charge’ of its own fishing waters after Brexit: Encouraging news for the UK fishing industry emerged this month after a government paper was published which promised a better deal for UK fishermen after the country leaves the European Union. Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations was published at the start of the month and set out plans for the UK to have control of its own territorial waters and set quotas for UK based vessels. The white paper stated that UK fishermen currently have a “poor deal” and would get a “fairer share” of fish stocks after Brexit. The paper also outlined be measures to eliminate the wasteful and destructive practice of discarding fish, as well as annual reviews of fish stocks to ensure they were being fished within sustainable limits. However, in cases UK fishermen would have to enter annual negotiations with the EU to work out who gains the quota for fish in shared fishing grounds. The news was welcomed by the chief executives of the National association of Fisherman’s Federations and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation. The white paper is now subject to a consultation period. Read more by clicking here.

Live shark in Malaysian restaurant aquarium sparks outrage: Video has emerged of a shark being displayed in a small aquarium in a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, sparking anger online and calls for the creature to be released. The eight second video showed a black tip shark in an aquarium which was described as being “barely 6ft long” by a diver who visited the restaurant and took the video. The shark was described as “swim[ing] in circles non-stop.” Black tip sharks can grow to 8ft in length and are found in tropical and sub-tropical waters across the world. Conservation groups and charities around the world condemned the restaurant, which has not released a statement on the issue. However, local reports state that the shark may have been kept in the aquarium since 2015. Read more here.

Arctic shipping lanes may have huge impact on environment: Vanishing sea ice due to global warming means that areas of the arctic which have previously been impassable to ships may now be accessible; putting the health of the world’s last remaining untouched wilderness at risk. The Independent reported that an American research team funded by NASA have found that even the North Pole may be accessible by ordinary shipping within a matter of decades due to melting sea ice, opening the area up to tourism and commercial shipping which will be able to cut weeks off current routes. The arctic is home to unique marine environments and rare and threatened species such as narwhals, beluga and bowhead whales. Conservationists fear that ship strikes, pollution, disturbance caused by ship’s engines and the threat of an oil spill all threaten the as yet unspoiled arctic region. Click here to read more.

UN global fishing report paints worrying picture despite record fish production: The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has released its biannual report on fishing which has stated that world fish production is at an all-time high of 171 million tons in 2016, mostly due to fish farming and aquaculture. However, the report also stated that fish farming was itself a cause for concern with huge amounts of wild caught fish being caught to feed farmed fish, and the pollution and waste produced by open water farms also being a major concern. Despite this fish farming continues to grow, and now produces 53% of fish for human consumption across the world. The report also stated that there were 4.6 million fishing boats on the planet, meaning that in many parts of the world there were too many boats chasing too few fish. Worryingly over a third of the total global fish catches is wasted. This was due to fish being discarded at sea as they were an inedible or low-value species, or because vessels did not have the correct ice-making or freezing facilities on board so fish rotted before they could be taken to market. Read more on this story here.

Nigel Farage criticised after being photographed with tope: MEP Nigel Farage has been criticised by a number of conservation groups after being photographed with a tope he caught when boat fishing. The former UKIP leader posted the photo on Twitter with the caption “Depressed over Brexit. Went fishing.” Tope are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and it is legal to fish for this species but they must be returned to the sea and not retained. Mr Farage stated that the tope he caught was safely returned after being photographed. Read more here.

Warning over weever fish on south coast beaches: RNLI lifeguards have issued a warning over the presence of weever fish on beaches across Devon and Cornwall, although the heatwave of June and July is likely to mean that they are also present on beaches all around the UK. Weever fish are a very small species (the shore caught record is just over three ounces) but they are a rare example of a venomous fish in UK waters, as their dorsal fin contains spines which secrete a potent venom. As weever fish bury themselves in the sand with the dorsal spines pointing upwards there is a high chance that people walking barefoot through shallow water may stand on a weever fish where they are present. The venom is potent and can intense pain, swelling, redness and nausea, although hospital treatment is rarely necessary. The RNLI said that there had been twenty-five separate incidents of people being stung by weever fish in one week in July across Devon and Cornwall, and advised people to waterproof shoes or flip flops when walking on the beach or in shallow water to protect their feet from weever fish. Click here to read more.

Man hospitalised after weever fish sting: in a connected story a man had to be taken to hospital and contracted a potentially fatal blood infection after being stung by a weever fish. Lee Baines, 52, was in the sea off the coast of Furness in Cumbria to bring in a boat when the weever fish stung him in the heel, despite the fact that was wearing flip-flop style footwear. He went home but the part of his heel where he was stung began to swell up after a quarter of an inch long section of weever fish spike was extracted from the wound. Mr. Baines then began suffering from fever like symptoms, sweating, freezing and experiencing “excruciating” pain. After two days he was admitted to Furness General Hospital where medical staff ran tests which showed he had an extremely serious blood infection. He was put on very strong antibiotics and an operation was carried out to completely wash out the area of his heel where he was stung. A local paper reported that Mr. Baines was recovering well but remained under observation in hospital at the time of writing. Read more here.

Angler catches and releases 295lb thresher shark off Welsh coast: A boat angler has caught a 295lb (133kg) thresher shark off the coast of Pembrokeshire. The shark was 12ft 8in (4 metres) long and took two hours to reel in. The thresher shark was caught by fifty-one year old George Simmonds who is from Lanelli. While thresher sharks are very rare in British waters several are sighted every year and they have been caught in Welsh waters before. Mr Simmonds said that the shark calmly swam off after it was released. Read more and see pictures of the shark by clicking here.

9ft blue shark spotted in St Ives Harbour: A blue shark has been filmed very close to the shore in St Ives Harbour in Cornwall. The shark was seen slowly swimming through shallow water in the harbour for several minutes before move out of the harbour and into deeper water. While blue sharks have been known to attack humans this is a very rare occurrence with only a handful of cases reported on a worldwide basis since records began. Despite this people were advised to stay out of the water. Read more and see pictures by clicking here.

Rising sea temperatures could bring new shark species to UK waters: The warming seas around the UK could bring species such as hammerhead, sand tiger, great white and blacktip sharks to British waters in coming years, according to a shark expert. Dr Ken Collins from the University of Southampton, who has previously worked on UK shark tagging programmes, has said that species which are now only present in warmer waters further south will move into the seas around Britain as water temperatures go up. However, he warned that pollution and commercial fishing pressure mean that native shark species are reducing in number, and some may even become extinct from British waters. Dr Collins said that the overall effect could be that there are more shark species present around the UK, but far fewer sharks overall. Click here to read more on this story.

Commercial fishing gear, not plastic straws, is the major source of marine plastic pollution: An article on Lifehacker (a website which covers computer related issues as well as ‘life hacks’) has argued that plastic straws are not as much of a threat to the marine environment as they are made out to be, and it is commercial fishing gear which causes the majority of pollution. Pointing out that 46% of the famous Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of commercial fishing gear the article highlights how little of the total marine plastic pollution is made up of plastic straws. The article states that in many cases it is easier for commercial fishermen to simply dump unwanted or worn out fishing gear at sea, rather than dispose of it properly. However, the issue of abandoned fishing gear is becoming the focus of attention. There are take-back station across the US where fishing gear can be recycled, and pressure is growing on companies to ensure that the fish they sell has been caught by sustainable methods and with fishing gear which is used responsibly. Click here to read more.

Krill fishing industry pledges to stop operating in polar waters: Krill are a type of small, mid-water crustacean which grows up to a few centimetres in length which are found in the cold arctic waters of the world. Recent years have seen krill become a fashionable and high-selling health supplement because of the benefits of the healthy fats and omega-3 present in krill oil. However, there are fears that krill are being overfished with as much as 200,000 tons of krill being taken on a worldwide basis by an expanding global krill fishery every year. Fish, seals, penguins and baleen whales (such as the blue whale) all feed on krill and a reduction in krill numbers could have a devastating effect on these species. However, there has been some good news as it has been revealed that almost every company currently fishing for krill in Antarctic waters will stop operating there by 2020, after a voluntary agreement was reached between all of the companies this month. This will mean that no krill on sale in the UK will have come from Antarctic waters and there is a separate plan in place to create a huge reserve which will be protected from all forms of fishing in the Weddell Sea. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Rising CO2 levels mean that fish are losing their sense of smell: New research has found that fish are losing their sense of smell due to rising CO2 levels in the world’s seas and oceans. The increasing levels of CO2 are turning seawater more acidic which makes it more difficult for fish to smell. Losing their sense of smell impacts on the ability of fish to find food, seek out other fish to reproduce and avoid predators. The research was carried out on bass, but it is feared that a wide range of species may find it difficult to survive if their sense of smell in reduced. Read more here.

Omega-3 health benefits may be vastly overstated: A new study has found that consuming omega-3 fatty acids may have very few benefits on heart health and strokes, despite the huge level of claims made by the $30 billion omega-3 industry. The study was carried out by Cochrane, and organisation which aims to provide clear and unbiased information about public health and medicine. Claims about the health benefits of fish oil date back to the work of a Danish scientist called Peter Möller who first popularised the taking of fish oil in the 1800s. A further study in the 1970s on Iniut people in Greenland added further weight to the omega-3 claims when it concluded that they had lower cases of heart disease due to the fact their diet was high in omega-3 due to fish consumption. However, the Cochrane report, which surveyed over 100,000 people, has found that there are serious questions over the link between consuming omega-3s and improved health, especially in terms of cardiovascular health and preventing strokes. This is important news for the marine environment as many different species of fish and fish products (from processed fish fingers to fresh mackerel) are marketed and sold as being high in omega-3. Read more on this story here.

Goliath grouper eats boat angler’s shark catch: Footage emerged this month of a huge goliath grouper ate a small shark as it was being reeled onto a fishing boat. The incident happened in the Gulf of Mexico when a group of anglers were fishing and caught a small shark. As the shark is reeled to the surface the grouper – which was estimated as weighing around 500lbs – emerges and takes the shark in a single bite. The angler then struggles with both fish on his line for a few seconds before the video ends. Goliath groupers have been a protected species in American waters since the early 1990s and must be returned to the sea unharmed if they are caught by anglers. Watch the video by clicking here.

Only 13% of world’s seas and oceans undamaged by humans: A huge research project by Australia’s Wildlife Conservation Society has found that almost all of the world’s marine environment has been damaged by human actions. Industrial fishing, global shipping and pollution are combining with climate change to degrade the world’s oceans and only 5% of the pristine, undamaged ocean environment which remains is within protected areas. The authors of the study have said that the main actions which would help the oceans are international conservation treaties to create protected areas and the removal of subsidies for high seas fishing. Currently around $4 billion is spent by national governments to subsidise high seas fishing fleets. If these subsidies were cut then fishing in the high seas would cease as it would no longer be profitable. The authors also warned that the lack of protection for the high seas meant that the small number of areas which are currently unaffected by fishing could be lost at any time. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Thomas Cook to stop holidays to SeaWorld: Thomas Cook, one of the UK’s biggest holiday companies, will stop selling trips to marine parks which keep captive killer whales. The company said that this was in response to customer concerns about animal welfare and will affect holidays which include trips to SeaWorld marine parks (which are mostly in the USA) and Loro Parque which is in Tenerife, Spain. The release of the documentary film Blackfish in 2013 drew attention to the issue of keeping killer whales in captivity and led to a change in public perception of the practice. SeaWorld has said that it took “incredible care” of all of the animals in its parks and also reiterated that it was no longer breeding killer whales, meaning that the current generation it has in its parks will be the last. Click here to read more on this story.

Thieves steal shark from US aquarium by disguising it as a baby and putting it in a push chair: A horn shark was stolen from an aquarium in San Antonio, Texas by thieves who wrapped the shark up in a wet blanket and placed it in a pushchair and then exited the aquarium. The 18-inch long shark was stolen by a group of three people and the aquarium staff said that they had trouble getting the police to take the issue seriously when they initially reported the theft. However, soon after the police began investigating the incident they tracked down the shark (which was unharmed and returned to the aquarium) and a 38-year-old man was arrested. The aquarium staff said that the people who took the shark “very much knew what they were doing” and there were a range of marine animals being kept at the home of the arrested man. Click here to read more on this story.

Overfishing is turning the Mediterranean into another Dead Sea: The Mediterranean is officially the world’s most overfished sea and there are now fears that the level of depletion may turn it into a new Dead Sea. EU studies have shown that around 90% of fish stock in the Mediterranean are overfished and an increasing number of fish species could join shark and ray species in becoming locally extinct in the Mediterranean. It is feared that the overfishing of the Mediterranean could lead to serious issues over food security in the future and only major action such as cutting bottom trawling, imposing catch limits in line with scientific advice and creating protected zones where no fishing can take place will help turn the situation around. Read more by clicking here.