July 2023 – News

Supertrawler owners complain of post-Brexit quotas: An article in this month’s Guardian looked at the future of the Kirkella, the largest whitefish trawler in the UK-based fleet. Described in the newspaper as being “enormous” and “state of the art,” the Guardian explains that post-Brexit the Kirkella has not been able to fish to its full potential, as its quota has been halved since Britain left the EU. In the article Jane Sandell, the chief executive of Fisheries UK which owns the Kirkella, complains that the Kirkella can no longer fish in most of Norway’s waters, and is limited to the remote Svalbard region and the areas further north, increasing operating costs. While the article admits have some vessels have seen their quotas rise since Brexit, this has mostly been the pelagic (mid-water) trawlers which are predominantly based in Scotland, with Sandell and the crew of the Kirkella feeling “betrayed” by the government in the post-Brexit negotiations. Strangely, for a newspaper which gives a high priority to the environment and green issues, the article fails to mention that the cod and haddock the Kirkella catches are classed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and that vessels of this size need to catch huge amounts of fish to remain commercially viable while being so efficient that they provide relatively little employment in return. Read the full article by clicking here.

Are shark attacks on the rise?: This month the Telegraph looked at the reasons the numbers of shark attacks on humans are increasing. Drawing on a BBC documentary which also aired this month, the paper highlighted a shark attack on a Russian tourist which happened off the coast of Egypt in June and a fatal shark attack on a British man in Australian waters last year. While the premise of the article, and the BBC documentary, strongly suggested that shark attacks were increasing, further reading revealed that shark populations were declining, shark attacks on humans were “incredibly rare” and only five people a year were actually killed by sharks. While there has been a rise in people being attacked by sharks in the Red Sea, this may be down to the combination of more people going on holiday there, and fish stocks being reduced, meaning that sharks have less natural prey to feed on and therefore become more likely to target people. Read the full article on the Telegraph website here.

‘Floating gold’ found in sperm whale washed up on Spanish beach: A sperm whale which washed up dead on a beach in the Canary Islands has been found to have ambergris inside its body which could be worth £425,000. Ambergris – also known as floating gold – is a mysterious substance which is produced by less than 1 per cent of sperm whales. It is believed to be connected to the whales feeding on giant squid and may help the sharp beaks of the squid to pass through the whale’s body. Usually, sperm whales will vomit or excrete ambergris where it will float, sometimes being washed onto shores. Despite its unpleasant origins, ambergris is extremely valuable as it contains ambrein, a form of odourless alcohol which is used as a fixative in high-end perfumes as it makes the scent last longer. The sperm whale which washed up on Nogales beach was 13 metres (42 ft) long and when a post-mortem was carried out at the University of Las Palmas a 9.5kg (21lb) lump of ambergris was found in its intestines. The university is now planning on selling the ambergris and has said that the funds will be used to repair damage which was caused by the 2021 volcanic eruption on the Canary Islands. Read more on this story here.

Fish pass built to help migrating species: Recent months have seen a number of barriers to fish migration removed from rivers around the UK. Barriers such as dams, weirs and culverts block the migration of species which live in the sea but travel along freshwater rivers to spawn, such as trout, silver eels and shad. When barriers cannot be removed an alternative option is to create a way for fish to bypass the barrier. This has been carried on the Chalgrove Brook in Oxfordshire where the River Thame Conservation Trust have built a fish pass which has opened up three kilometres of the river which had previously been sealed off by a weir. The Brook is the home to the area’s only self-sustaining brown trout population and the Trust eventually aim to make the entirety of Chalgrove Brook passable to fish. Read more on this story here.

Mass whale stranding occurs on Scottish beach: A pod of fifty-five pilot whales became stranded on a Scottish beach this month – the worst whale stranding in the British Isles for over seventy years. The whales were found on a beach on the Isle of Lewis and only one of the whales could be refloated, with the rest being euthanised after it became clear that they would not survive. A team from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme is carrying out postmortems on a number of the whales to try and ascertain the reason for the standing. It is believed that bad weather may have played a role, and pilot whales are a highly social species so when one whale becomes beached others can often follow. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Cameras could be fitted to commercial fishing boats: Commercial fishing vessels operating in UK waters could be fitted with cameras and sensors under new post-Brexit measures which will ensure that quotas are not exceeded. Both UK and EU vessels will need to have the technology fitted to allow catches to be monitored and audited and ensure that actual catches match what is being manually recorded in the vessel’s logbook. Fisheries minister Mark Spencer said: Leaving the … has given us a brilliant opportunity to take a new approach which will transform the way we manage our fisheries. This includes being agile as we embrace the latest technology and maximise its potential in a way that works for our fishermen, anglers, scientists, supply chain and regulators and ensures sustainable stocks for decades to come.” Read more here.

Isle of Man’s herring industry revived following Brexit: The Telegraph reported that the herring fishing industry on the Isle of Man has seen catches increase four-fold since EU fishing regulations stopped applying to the UK. Previous EU Common Fisheries Policy regulations meant that the Isle of Man’s herring quota was so low that it was not commercially viable for the island’s fishermen to catch the species. But now a 100-tonne quota for the species is in place, along with a 235-tonne quota for langoustines. While the Isle of Man is a self-governing Crown dependency, negotiations have been ongoing with Westminster and the new quotas for the island’s fisheries have now been agreed upon. As a fast-growing and early maturing species, herring are plentiful with numbers in the Irish Sea doubling since the 1990s. The Isle of Man’s environment minister Clare Barber said the new quotas would see herring fished sustainably and the new quotas were a “once in a generation opportunity” for the Manx fishing industry. Read more by clicking here.

Chard Reservoir to launch new scheme to protect silver eels: Silver eels are a species which is classed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, with their worldwide numbers now at around 5 per cent of historic levels. Barriers to migration, pollution and overharvesting are all major causes of the species decline. Now a new scheme at Chard Reservoir in Somerset is set to help reverse this decline. Around 8,000 glass eels (an early life stage of the silver eel) will be released into the reservoir, while eel passes will be installed on the River Isle and River Parrett to help the eels reach the sea and begin their complex life cycle which sees them swim to the Caribbean to spawn. Geoff Way of the Environment Agency told Somerset Live “Chard Reservoir sits at the head of the River Isle and offers excellent habitat for young eels to grow and develop into mature adults. This was confirmed following a 24-hour netting survey recently performed by our officers … It is hoped eel populations at Chard Reservoir will further improve in years to come.” Click here to read more.

Fake great white shark fin causes concern off Torquay beach: The Independent reported that a fake great white shark fin was placed around 300 metres off a beach in Torquay this month, causing children to become “terrified.” The fin – which was made out of insulation foam and painted dark grey – was kept in place by a weighted stick. A so-called prankster admitted to making the fin and placing it in the water on Facebook, but did not reveal their identity. They went on to say that the fin was made for a “personal video” and they did not expect anyone to notice it. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Dutch football team unveil eel-themed kit: Dutch professional football team FC Volendam have revealed their new eel-theme strip for the forthcoming season. The design was inspired by the Volendam’s eel fishing heritage and features a pattern of intertwined eels. Several of the team’s players posed for photos holding silver eels in promotional pictures for the new strip. Read more and see pictures here.