June 2020 – News

Supertrawlers fished inside UK ‘protected’ zones for 3000 hours last year: News emerged this month that super-trawlers – fishing vessels which are more than 100 metres in length – spent thousands of hours fishing in British MPAs (Marine Protected Areas). An investigation by Greenpeace found that twenty-five supertrawlers, including the four biggest in the world, fished in thirty-nine UK protected areas in 2019. Greenpeace said that the fact that supertrawlers could operate in such areas “makes a mockery” of the UK’s MPA scheme. The protection given to each MPA is decided on a case-by-case basis and only certain commercial fishing practices are banned in some MPAs, meaning the supertrawlers were fishing completely legally under current regulations. Read more on this story by clicking here.

UK public support ban on super-trawlers: In news linked to the story above a YouGov poll has revealed that four out of five people in the UK support a ban on restricting or stopping supertrawlers from operating in UK waters. The poll, which was commissioned by Greenpeace, had 1,664 respondents and found that 81% were in favour of banning such vessels, with only 4% believing that they should be allowed to continue to operate. YouGov went on to say that it made little difference which political party the respondents supported or their stance on Brexit as the support to ban supertrawlers was shared across political divides. An additional petition launched by Greenpeace this month to ban supertrawlers from fishing in British Marine Protected Zones has also gained 130,000 signatures. Philip Evans, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace said that the finding of the poll “should send a firm message to the Government that enough is enough … supertrawlers must be banned from our protected areas.” Read more on this story here.

Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) could see all fishing banned: All forms of fishing – both commercial and recreational – could be banned from newly designated Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). The plans have been recommended by a review commissioned by Michael Gove when he was the Environment Secretary. In the proposed HPMAs no extractive or destructive activities would be able to take place, meaning that vessels would be permitted to do little other than pass through such areas. The establishment of HPMAs would prevent supertrawlers (or any other types of fishing vessels from operating in the areas, but it is unclear how this would impact onrecreational angling. The Angling Trust is set to launch a campaign to prevent rod and line fishing from being classed as causing the same amount of damage as dredging, trawling and seabed drilling. Click here to read more on this story.

Scottish salmon farms to be banned from shooting seals: Stricter regulations will be brought in to prohibit Scottish salmon farmers from shooting seals and using acoustic deterrence devices (ADDs) in order to protect marine mammals. The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation blames seals for damaging nets and using the industry half a million fish each year. Fish farms claim that shooting seals and using ADDs is necessary to protect fish stocks and ADDs help to keep seals away. However, environmental and animal rights groups have heavily criticised the shooting of seals and there is evidence that the sounds produced by ADDs have an adverse effect on marine mammals such as whales and dolphins which means they are not compatible with legislation to protect such species. Recently released figures show that thirty-one seals were shot dead at Scottish fish farms in the first three months of 2020, double the figure killed in the same time period last year. The regulations are set to be brought in during 2021. Read more by clicking here.

Marine species moving to cooler water faster than previously believed: Global sea temperatures are continuing to rise which is making marine species move towards the colder water around the earth’s poles. French researchers from the Université de Picardie Jules Verne in Amiens carried out the research as part of the BioShift project and found that marine species were moving into cooler habitats at a rate of 3.7 miles a year – six times faster than land-based animals. This is because water conducts heat much more effectively than land and land-based animals can regulate heat more effectively than marine species. While the researchers warned that their work only covered around 0.6% of life on earth and was concentrated on species in the northern hemisphere, it still highlights how climate change and warming oceans will cause significant changes to take place in the distribution of marine species around the world. Read more by clicking here.

Progress in the battle against illegal silver eel trade: The illegal smuggling and exporting of critically endangered silver eels is a huge industry, worth an estimated £2.5 billion. The increasing demand from Asia, where this species is seen as a delicacy, means that criminals are increasingly tempted by the huge sums which can be made – and the fact that the chances of being caught are low and penalties for being caught are relatively light. However, the website Wired has reported this month that after years of struggling to stop the illegal trade real progress is being made in catching smugglers and preventing the export of silver eels from Europe to Asia. This has been achieved by better methods of detecting eels being exported at airports, work to break up the supply chains which are used to hide eels in otherwise legitimate shipments of fish and improved international cooperation. This could be seen in the successful prosecution of Gilbert Khoo, a UK-based Malaysian-born seafood trader who was convicted in February of illegally exporting an estimated £53 million of silver eels from Britain to Asia between 2015 and 2017. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Illegal gill net recovered from North East coast: Fisheries protection officers have recovered an illegal gill net from the waters around Holy Island in Northumberland. The 50 metre net was primarily set for salmon and sea trout although it would have also caught many other species. Authorities had already removed several other nets along the North East coast, including one which was 75 metres long and another which was 100 metres in length. Those found guilty of unlawfully setting an net can be prosecuted, given an unlimited fine or potentially jailed. John Crowl from the environment agency said: “Not only are they [illegal nets] capable of catching and killing fish indiscriminately they are also capable of causing awful injury to sea birds and mammals … I’d urge people to report information about illegal fishing activity to us so we can take action.” Read more here.