July 2019 – News

North Sea cod now at “critically low levels”: After being classed as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in 2017, North Sea cod stocks are now at “critically low levels.” Independent scientists from the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) have said that many of the measures which were in place to restore cod stocks, such as limiting catch levels, have been undone since MSC sustainability was achieved – catch levels are currently one-fifth higher than scientific advice recommends. This has led to the cod recovery being rapidly reversed, and stocks are now back in trouble with ICES recommending a two-thirds cut in the cod catch from the North Sea. Following the ICES findings the MSC have launched a two-month investigation which could result in MSC sustainability being removed from the species. The findings of ICES carry no legal power and commercial fishermen are free to continue catching cod up to the level their current quota allows. However, if MSC sustainable status is lost from cod it will be a blow to the UK fishing industry, and raises questions over the long-term prospects of this key commercial and recreational species in the North Sea. Read more on this story here.

Britain has exported fifty tons of shark fin in the last two years: Environmental campaigners and conservationists have claimed that more than fifty tons of shark fin has been exported from Britain in the last two years, leading to calls for the practice to be banned. Campaigners claim that it is Spanish, and not British, fishermen who catch sharks in European waters with the shark fins then being landed in the UK and sent on to Spain, which is one of the world’s biggest shark fin exporters. A Defra spokesperson told Sky News that the UK was “leading the charge to ban shark finning across the European Union” but added that “while we are a member of the EU it is not possible to introduce additional restrictions on shark fin trade.” Click here to read more on this.

Fisherman claims that great white sharks are now present off the coast of Devon: A fisherman says that great which sharks are present off the coast of southern England, although sightings of them are down this year. Ashley Lane, who runs Ashley’s Fishing Trips in South Devon, says he has received multiple reports of from fellow fishermen who have seen great white sharks in British waters, although none so far this year. Dr Ken Collins from the University of Southampton agreed that it was perfectly possible that great whites were present in British waters, adding that as the waters around the UK warm up Mediterranean species such as hammerhead sharks, blacktip sharks and sand tiger sharks, which are already found in European waters off the coast of Spain and Portugal, could make their way to the UK. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Deep sea mining is a new threat to the world’s oceans: An article in the Guardian this month described how deep sea industrial mining is opening up a “new industrial frontier” with companies racing to extract metals and minerals from huge areas of the seabed across the world. However, little consideration has been given to the impact this will have on the marine environment or the delicate marine ecosystems where mining could take place. An investigation by Greenpeace has found that twenty-nine licences have been issued to private companies to explore areas of seabed in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. The mining – which has not actually taken place yet – would involve lowering machines onto the seabed which would dig for rare metals (such as cobalt) and valuable minerals. Advocates of deep sea mining state that the raw materials for technologies such as batteries, smart phones and computers will be gained if mining is allowed but campaigners have warned that such mining will in effect destroy whole areas of the seabed and have called for a global treaty to ban or at least regulate and limit the extent of seabed mining. Read more by clicking here.

Police warn River Tyne jet-ski users over dolphin harassment: Police are investigating following reports that dolphins were harassed by jet-ski riders in the River Tyne. Members of the public were watching dolphins breaching in the River Tyne estuary between North and South Shields when jet-skis appeared in the area and moved towards the dolphins and rode over the top of the area where the dolphins had been jumping out of the water. Sargent Paul Spedding of Northumbria Police told the BBC that it was illegal to “harass, feed, chase and touch marine mammals in the wild” and that anyone found doing so would be prosecuted. Read more on the BBC website by clicking here.

First ever footage captured of great white sharks interacting: Footage of two great white sharks interacting has been captured for the first time off the coast of Massachusetts. Nate Jenson was using a drone in the area when he spotted a shark and began to film it. During the 18-second clip a second shark approaches it and the two sharks briefly interact, swirling around together before separating and swimming away in different directions. Little is known about the social behaviour of great white sharks, although scarring marks on great whites have led scientists to believe that the species sometimes lightly bite each other, although it is not known if this is done due to disputes over territory or connected to mating. This footage is believed to be the first ever time two great whites interacting has been caught on film and scientists are studying the footage to see what light it sheds on shark behaviour. Click here to view the footage and read more on this story.

Supermarket fish could be up to twenty days old: A BBC documentary has found that fish offered for sale in UK supermarkets is far less fresh than customers realise. The Honest Supermarket: What’s Really in our Food was broadcast on BBC 2 this month and tested cod which was on sale at five different supermarkets around the UK. Around 30 per cent of the fish tested was classed as having gone off, with some fillets being around twenty days old. Another 20 per cent of the fish tested would only remain safe to eat until the following day. The programme highlighted the light regulations which governs the freshness of fish which is sold by UK retailers, with supermarkets being legally allowed to decide the use by dates for fish themselves. Read more about this story (which features a contribution from British Sea Fishing) on the Independent’s website here.

Brexit Party MEP causes controversy with Belgrano tweet: A Brexit Party MEP has caused controversy by posting a tweet saying that foreign fishing vessels in UK waters should be “given the same treatment as the Belgrano.” Robert Rowland sent the tweet in response to fellow Brexit Party MEP June Mummery joining the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee. ARA General Belgrano was an Argentine cruiser which was sunk when it was torpedoed by the British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror during the Falklands War. Over three hundred Argentine sailors lost their lives with the Belgrano – over half of Argentina’s casualties for the entire war. Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies said that the remarks were “evil” but Rowland stated that the tweet was a “tongue-in-cheek comment.” Read more on the Guardian website by clicking here.

Large porbeagle shark caught and released off the south coast of England: A porbeagle shark which was 8ft long and weighed an estimated 300lbs has been caught off the coast of Dorset. Adam Carter, 41, reeled the shark in after a one hour and forty five minute battle, during which the shark made several 200 metre runs. The shark was released by the side of the boat after being photographed. Another porbeagle weighing an estimated 200lbs was caught and released on the same day by another angler on the boat. Click here to read more on this story and see photos of the shark.

UK may not take back control of waters following no-deal Brexit: With Brexit continuing to cause turmoil in UK politics one of the few certainties appeared to be that a no-deal Brexit would see the UK immediately reclaim control of its own territorial waters, as the country would immediately cut all ties with the European Union. However, this month Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told a parliamentary select committee that even if the UK left the EU with no deal on 31st October the UK would seek a “continuity approach.” This would mean that non-EU fishing vessels could potentially continue to fish in UK waters until the end of the year. The news will come as a surprise to many in the fishing industry who see no-deal as a clear and immediate break with the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. Mr Barclay went on to say that the UK would still be “taking back control” of its own waters following Brexit, but it may be the case that “reciprocal arrangements” would be sought with some nations when it came to fishing. Read more here.