June 2018 – News

Plastic and cotton found in UK’s wild mussels: A study has found that all samples of mussels taken from both supermarkets and the UK coastline contained plastic pollution and other forms of debris. Researchers from the Universities of Hull and Brunel took the samples of mussels from eight unnamed supermarkets as well as from locations around the UK where wild mussels are present. The study found that 100% of mussels samples were contaminated, mostly with plastic but also with cotton and the artificial fibre rayon. Overall the researchers found seventy pieces of pollution in every 100 grams of mussels surveyed. The research will be published in the academic journal Environmental Pollution. While more research is needed into the impact of eating small pieces of plastic on human health many UK consumers will be worried by the findings of the study, which also raises awareness that plastic pollution is something which has an impact on the waters around the UK. Read more here.

324lbs porbeagle shark caught off coast of Wales: A porbeagle shark which tipped the scales at over 300lbs has been caught off the coast of Pembrokeshire. The shark was caught by Matthew Burrett while fishing out of Milford Haven and is believed to be the biggest ever caught in Welsh waters. The shark was released after being caught and photographed as the company which ran the shark fishing trip has a strict catch and release policy. Read more and see pictures by clicking here.

Great white shark spotted off coast of Majorca: A five metre long (16ft) great white shark has been spotted off the coast of Majorca, the first confirmed sighting of the species in the area in forty years. The movements of the shark were tracked for over an hour by members of Alnitak, an international wildlife, team six miles off the southern coastline of the island. While great white sharks were common in the waters of the Balearic Islands in the first half of the twentieth century their numbers and range have reduced significantly since then. The last great white shark confirmed in the area was a six metre specimen which was caught by a fisherman in 1976. Read more here.

Fisherman robbed of catch three miles out to sea: A fisherman has been robbed of his catch after he was threatened with a knife while several miles out to sea. Stuart Pengelly was returning to an area where he had previously set nets three miles off the coast of Slapton Sands in Devon when two men in a rigid inflatable boat then approached him and threatened him with a knife. They then cut his nets and took plaice and sole worth around £300. With no mobile phone signal Mr Pengelly had to wait until he got back to shore to report the crime and the men have yet to be apprehended. The incident has led to the police renewing their call for people not to buy fish from “unreputable sources.” Read more here.

Dried out Aral Sea desert to be transformed into forest: The Aral Sea in central Asia was once one of the largest enclosed bodies of water in the world, being around the size of England at its peak. However, Soviet farming policies saw the rivers feeding the Aral Sea to be diverted to irrigate cotton fields. Without this source of water the Aral Sea began to shrink, and is now less than ten per cent of its original size. This has caused fishing industries in surrounding countries to collapse and also caused an ecological disaster which has had an impact on human health. However, there are now plans to create forests across areas of desert which were once covered by the Aral Sea as a means of reducing the ecological impact of the loss of the sea. A BBC article this month describes how tractors are being used to dig up the desert ground and plant seeds which will grow into hardy shrub-like plants (these seeds are being planted on land which would have been twenty-five metres underwater just forty years ago). These plants will prevent the toxic sand from being whipped up by winds and transported to nearby towns and villages, stopping one of the most harmful effects of the loss of the Aral Sea. There is a separate plan, funded by the World Bank, to create a dam which will protect and partially restore the remaining portion of the Aral Sea. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Scottish government report admits Brexit will bring fishing benefits: A report by the Scottish government has found that Brexit will bring huge financial benefits to the nation’s fishing industry, putting the fiercely pro-EU SNP-led Scottish government in a difficult position. The report was carried out by Marine Scotland and stated that Scotland’s fishing industry could generate an additional £540 million and 5,000 extra jobs if it did not have to comply with the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. Although there would be additional tariffs placed on seafood exports due to no longer being a member of the EU, these would be easily outweighed by the additional money generated by higher catches. While Scotland voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum and the SNP has been steadfast in its support of continued EU membership the Scottish fishing industry is a big supporter of leaving the EU and the CFP due to the benefits it would bring. Read more on this story by clicking here.

New technology could help stop ‘dark fleet’ of illegal fishing vessels: Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) is a major issue across the world’s seas and oceans, especially in the high seas which fall outside of the jurisdiction of any one nation. However, advances in tracking technology mean that vessels which could previously fish across the high seas without detection can now be traced. An article in the Guardian reports that it was previously easy to avoid being detected as small vessels are not fitted with transponders which allow them to be tracked, and larger vessels switch their transponders off to avoid being tracked. Vessels taking part in such actions have become known as the “dark fleet” due to the lack of clarity about the type of fishing they are taking part in and the number of fish they are catching. However, now charities and not-for-profit conservation groups such as Global Fishing Watch are using publicly available imaging data collected by the US government to create a real time map of fishing vessels operating across the world. Paul Woods, chief technology officer at Global Fishing Watch said “this data is now freely available to governments, NGOs and academia to use and interrogate, and support global efforts to strengthen monitoring and enforcement to eradicate illegal fishing.” Read the full Guardian article by clicking here.

Government pledges new MCZs: The government has pledged to create forty-one new marine conservation zones (MCZs) to create a “blue belt” of protected areas around the coastline of the UK. Harmful activities such as dredging, trawling and other forms of offshore developments will be prohibited in the new MCZs. The announcement was made by Environment Secretary Michael Gove to mark World Oceans Day on June 8th. A six week consultation will take place prior to the zones being designated. Once the new zones are established they will bring the total area sea which is protected around the UK to 32,000 square kilometres. Read more by clicking here.

World Oceans Day and World Fishing Day celebrated: World Oceans Day was celebrated on June 8th, with the focus on stopping the plastics crisis taking centre stage. Originally established at the UN’s Earth Summit in 1992 World Oceans Day is celebrated by all UN member states and aims to raise awareness of the conservation issues facing the world’s seas and oceans. Read more about World Oceans Day at the official website here. World Fishing Day has also been established. This happened on June 23rd and aims to “see more people fall in love with fishing.” A range of free fishing events took place across the world and a 24-hour live broadcast of fishing around the world was used to mark the day. Have a look at the official World Fishing Day site here.

Huge vessel accused of illegal fishing is apprehended: The Damanzaihao, a 50,000 ton vessel which can process over half a million tons of fish a year, has been detained for a string of alleged fishing and environmental offences. The Damanzaihao was stopped when it was in Peru and will be held for seventy days while alleged offences such as polluting the sea and illegal fishing are investigated. The Independent reports that the vessel had already been issued with a multi-million pound fine in 2016 by the government of Peru (which has gone unpaid) and was sailing under a Belize flag and its Russian crew were planning to sail to China when the vessel was detained. Click here to read more.

Call for more women to get involved in angling: TV presenter Fiona Armstrong, who is also the Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries, has called for more girls and women to get involved in fishing. She said ““fishing is a great pastime – and, as patron of a couple of fishing charities, I have seen the effect it can have on youngsters, especially those from the inner cities … Getting them away from mobiles and computer screens and getting them back to nature.” She also pointed out that she met her husband when fishing. The call was made to mark World Fishing Day. It is estimated that currently only around ten per cent of anglers are female. Read more by clicking here.

Call for balloon released to be outlawed: Campaigners have called for mass balloon released to be banned due to the damage they cause to the marine environment. Fish, marine mammals and turtles can all mistake deflated balloons for food, with balloons (which are usually made out of latex or aluminium foil) taking years to naturally break down once they end up in the sea. The charity Marine Life has led the call for balloon releases to be banned, citing the high number of balloons which have been found in the English Channel. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has also started its own ‘Don’t Let Go’ campaign to stop balloon releases. So far fifty local authorities across the UK have banned intentional balloon releases, and it is hoped that more will follow. Read more here.

Theresa May calls on world leaders to support ocean conservation: Theresa May has used the G7 summit to call for greater protection of the world’s seas and oceans and to push forward reductions in plastic pollution across the world. The G7 summit takes place on an annual basis and consists of a two-day meeting of the leaders of seven of the world’s major economies (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States). The 2018 summit was held on the 8th and 9th of June in Quebec, Canada and was dominated by controversial comments made by US President Donald Trump (and his early exit from the summit). However, Theresa May still used the opportunity to gain support from world leaders for her policies on ocean conservation and plastic waste. Read more by clicking here.

Whale dies after eating plastic bags: The impact of plastic pollution was illustrated this month by the sad news that a whale had died from consuming plastic carrier bags. The pilot whale was found struggling in a canal near to the border between Thailand and Malaysia. It was rescued and a team of vets attempted to nurse the whale back to health but it soon died. The whale had vomited up five plastic bags during the rescue attempt, and an autopsy revealed that there were another eighty bags in the whale’s stomach. Thailand is one of the world’s largest users of plastic bags and this incident brings home the reality of the impact of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Click here to read more.

Plans for Swansea tidal lagoon thrown out: Plans for an energy-generating tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay have been thrown out by the UK government. The £1.3 billion project had been in the planning stage for over fifteen years, but the tidal lagoon will now not be built after the UK government said that the project did not offer sufficient value for taxpayers and doubt was cast on the ability of the developers to keep the costs of the lagoon under control. Those in favour of the tidal lagoon claimed it would be good for the environment as it would help reduced carbon emissions and climate change by generating clean energy. Labour MP Carolyn Harris appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live and strongly argued that the lagoon project should still go ahead , even arguing that anglers welcomed the lagoon as they would be able to cast out from purpose built structures which would be built along the lagoon. However, in the same Radio 5 Live debate Mark Lloyd, the chief executive of the Angling Trust said that the lagoon would kill a quarter of migrating sea trout and salmon and welcomed the cancellation of the project. Other conservation groups have also pointed out the devastating impact that the lagoon would have on marine birds, mammals and invertebrate species in the region. Read more here.