June 2019 – News

RSPCA to “seek support for a ban on angling”: The Times has reported that the RSCPA is to take a new hardline approach which will see the organisation seek to gain support for a ban on angling, as well as horse racing. The paper reports that Jane Tredgett, the RSPCA’s vice-chairman, is planning to push ahead with the policy, although senior figures within the organisation believe that the move may alienate supporters and reduce funding from the public. The Times article states that changes in the governance of the RSPCA which were due to happen in this month would see the number of regional trustees reduced. This could lead to more moderate voices within the organisation being side-lined and give more power to those pushing for more far-reaching and controversial policies such as the angling ban. Read more by clicking here.

Icelandic fishermen fired after shark abuse video goes viral: Two Icelandic commercial fishermen have been fired from their jobs and may face criminal charges after a video emerged of them cutting the tail off a shark and then returning it to the sea. The two men are from Iceland and were fishing from a commercial vessel in Greenland waters. In the video – which they filmed and uploaded to Facebook themselves – they can be seen laughing as they hack the tail from the shark. They then return it to the water and can be seen continuing to laugh as the shark attempts to swim away. They then shout a phrase which translates as “good luck trying to swim, you punk!” as they turn to the camera. An Icelandic news source named the men as Gunnar Por Ooinsson and Halldor Gustaf Guomundsson. Once the owners of the fishing vessel they worked on found out about the video they were both fired from their jobs, and may also face criminal charges. Read more on this story here.

New Highly Protected Marine Areas could be created around the coast of England: A government review has been launched into establishing new Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) around the coastline of England. These new areas will have, as the name suggests, much higher protections than the already established Marine Protected Zones (MPZs). The news comes after forty-one new MPZs were announced last month. The news is part of the UK’s contribution to an international initiative to have thirty per cent of the world’s seas and oceans protected by the year 2030. Read more here.

Cornish town issues crabbing code of conduct: The Cornish town of Looe has become the first in the country to implement a code of conduct and quotas for crabbing. The advisory code suggests a maximum of three crabs per bucket, refreshing seawater regularly, keeping crabs in the shade, only using a net bag for bait and that fighting crabs are separated. The code was drawn up by Looe Marine Conservation Group and staff at the University of Exeter and was brought in due to the popularity of crabbing leading to concerns over the crustacean’s welfare. Amelia Bridges of Looe Marine Conservation Group said that they did not want to stop crabbing or be the “fun police” but wanted to ensure that crabbing was done “responsibly and remains sustainable.” Click here to read more.

Long-running dispute over Rockall fishing rights flares up: A diplomatic dispute between Ireland and Scotland over Rockall – a tiny islet in the Atlantic Ocean – has reignited. Rockall is located around 260 miles west of Scotland’s Western Isles. As a jagged, rocky islet (very small island) it is uninhabited and uninhabitable, measuring just thirty metres across at its widest point and rising around seventeen metres out of the sea. Unverifiable claims of Rockall’s existence date from the 6th century, and it has appeared on maps and charts since the 1700s. Due to the difficulty of getting to Rockall and then climbing onto the islet reports state that as few as twenty people have been confirmed as setting foot on Rockall. The issue of who owns Rockall has long been a source of tension between Ireland and Scotland. Historically, the Irish believe that Rockall should not be owned by any nation, with any country free to fish in the waters around it. The British government, however, claims Rockall, and it was legally incorporated as part of Scotland in 1972. This means that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea the UK (and therefore Scottish) governments can claim the twelve nautical mile zone around Rockall as their territorial waters and ban other nations from access to this area. The Scottish government has stated that it has always been against the law for Irish fishing boats to fishing within twelve nautical miles of Rockall, but Irish fishermen have claimed that they have been able to fish within these waters for decades. The Scottish government has said that there has been an increasing level of “illegal activity” in the waters around Rockall since 2017, and Scotland’s Fisheries Minister Fergus Ewing has recently warned that boats illegally fishing around Rockall could be stopped and boarded. This led to the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney stating that Ireland did not accept that a small uninhabitable island was something which could be used to base a claim of sovereignty around, and Irish vessels would continue to fish in the area. Senior politicians from both countries have called for a calm and amicable resolution to the situation, but neither side appears to be close to backing down, and it remains unknown how dispute over Rockall will be resolved. Read more here.

Illegal eel exporters exposed by the BBC: An episode of Countryfile which aired this month exposed eel traders who were looking to illegally export eels outside of the EU. Silver eels are classed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, but the value of eels has rocketed due to demand from Asia where they are seen as a delicacy, leading to the ban on exporting them outside of the EU. However, it is believed that around 350 million baby eels are exported from Europe to the Asia every year, a criminal enterprise which could be worth as much as £3 billion a year. The BBC found that fishermen and traders who had caught the eels legally were being offered large sums of money to export the eels to China, South Korea and Russia, despite the law being passed in 2010 which makes it illegal to send silver eels outside of the European Union at any stage of their life. The huge sums which can be made by illegal eel trafficking, low chances of being detected and the relatively light punishment which comes to anyone who is caught make this an attractive prospect to criminal gangs. The episode of Countryfile which features this story can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer, and more can be read on this story here.

Footwear lost at sea highlights lost cargo pollution problems: An article on the BBC News website this month looked at the loss of a consignment of shoes from a cargo ship, and how such losses can have a huge impact on the environment. Early last year around seventy shipping containers were lost from the Maersk Shanghai, a 324 metre long cargo vessel, when it was caught in a storm while travelling along the east coast of the USA. It is estimated that as many as 700,000 individual shoes could have been in the containers which fell overboard, and following the incident large numbers of Nike trainers as well as flip-flops and other types of footwear from other manufacturers began washing up on beaches on both sides of the Atlantic. In the time since the containers were lost shoes have been found in the Caribbean, the Azores, west coast of Ireland, Orkney Islands, on the Cornish coastline and on beaches across northern France. Scientists believe that the trainers could be caught in a huge ocean gyre made up of the Gulf Stream, Canary Current and North Equatorial Current, meaning that the remaining trainers will be essentially swept in a huge circle around the Atlantic Ocean until they make landfall or eventually breakdown, although the latter could take many decades and will release microplastics into the sea as the process takes place. The incident has many parallels with the Friendly Floatees, a consignment of children’s bath toys which were lost from a cargo ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 1992. Friendly Floatees have been found all over the world, with one being found on a Scottish beach, highlighting the durability and pervasiveness of plastic in the seas and oceans. The International Maritime Organization has called for greater clarity from shipping companies when containers are lost at sea. Under present regulations they only have to report lost cargo when it presents a hazard to shipping or direct harm to the marine environment, such as when toxic chemicals are lost overboard. Under these regulations the loss of the consignment of trainers would not need to be reported. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Canada bans shark fin trade: Canada has become the first country in the G20 (the group of the world’s twenty richest nations) to ban the import and export of shark fins. While shark finning within Canadian waters has been illegal since 1994, Canada was one of the largest importers of shark fins outside of Asia, with the BBC reporting that 148,000 kg (326,000 lbs) were imported by the country in 2018 alone. The new law, which has taken several years to be passed, bans the import or export of shark fins which are not attached to the body. The move has been welcomed by conservationists, and adds to the growing move against shark finning. Several US states have also banned the importation of shark fins, and even China, by far the largest consumer of shark fins, banned shark fin dishes from official functions in 2013. Read more on this story on the BBC website by clicking here.

Ocean Cleanup project takes to the sea again: The Ocean Cleanup project is being launched again, after the last attempt ended in failure. The project is the brainchild of Boyan Slat, an environmentalist from the Netherlands who came up with the idea when he was sixteen years old. The much-hyped project consists of vast booms which are pushed through the seas by tides and currents. The booms trail net-like skirts underneath the water which trap plastic pollution. Every few weeks a support vessel attends the booms and removes the plastic, taking it away for recycling. However, the Ocean Cleanup project, which has raised millions of pounds in crowdfunding, has been beset by problems. It is claimed that the booms move through the sea too slowly to hold plastic within them, and on the last trial the harsh conditions of the Pacific Ocean led to the booms breaking apart. With modifications made it is now hoped that the Ocean Cleanup project can begin successfully operating and will eventually be used to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which lies between California and Hawaii. Click here to read more on this story.

Guardian says that “fashion has gone fishing”: An article in this month’s Guardian claims that the world of fashion is being influenced by the unlikely source of fishing. The article states that “pocket-heavy gilets” influenced by the type anglers wear have been appearing on catwalks and made their way to high street retailers such as Top Shop. Fisherman-style hats have also become popular, with Barbadian pop superstar Rihanna and American model Bella Hadid being seen wearing them, and Asos seeing sales of such hats increasing by over 300 per cent. Thigh-high wellington boots similar to waders and waterproof hooded anoraks have also featured in fashion shows. Gemma Hayward of Grazia magazine told the Guardian that fashion’s current focus on utility and functionality could be one of the reasons why fishing is having an unlikely influence on fashion. Read more on the Guardian website by clicking here.