March 2016 – News

Anglers, Conservationists and Bass: Anglers and conservationists from different parts of the UK united this month to campaign for better protection of valuable sport fishing species, particularly bass. The Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers called the current system of fisheries management “fundamentally flawed.” They argued that anglers only catch a small proportion of bass and return around two thirds of what they catch, while commercial fishing is responsible for the vast majority of bass which are caught. Read the full BBC article here. Similarly Welsh angling groups and the Marine Conservation Society said that they were very concerned about the decline of bass in Welsh waters and criticised the decision to increase the quota of the highly damaging commercial gill net fishery while simultaneously making bass catch and release only for anglers. John O’Connor, the chairman of the Welsh Federation of Sea Anglers, pointed out that the tourism created by bass fishing in Wales is worth millions of pounds and this has been put at risk by the restrictions which have been put in place on bass anglers. Read more here.

Big Cod Caught: Two British anglers celebrated catching huge cod in Norwegian waters this month. Paul Stevens was boat fishing off the coast of Sørøya, an island off the north of Norway when he caught an 83lb cod. However, the next day his friend Bert Williams caught a 93lb cod – the largest caught by a British angler on rod and line. With cod recovering in Norwegian waters it is predicted that even larger specimens will be caught in the coming years. See pictures of the fish on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.

Deep Sea Fishing: A scientist at a Danish University announced an idea for feeding the world’s population which will have deeply concerning consequences for anyone interested in the health of the planet’s marine ecosystem. Michael St John, a professor at the National Institute of Aquatic Resources in Denmark stated that there are billions of tons of edible biomass in the world’s oceans at depths of 200 – 1000 metres, much more than was previously thought to be present there. St John went on to say that this would be enough to feed much of the world’s population. Some fish could be directly eaten by humans, whereas others could be processed into fishmeal to feed livestock. There was little reference to how much damage this would cause to the marine environment or the moral issues of destroying delicate deep-sea ecosystems which would likely never recover from intensive commercial fishing. The report also failed to ask the question as to why we are now needing to exploit fish at such depths, as the shallower waters around the world’s land masses are more than capable of producing enough food for human consumption, if they were managed properly. Read a summary of the work here.

Japanese Restaurant Raided: Japanese police raided a members-only restaurant this month, as it was serving poisonous pufferfish. The species is seen as a delicacy in Japan, but the liver, skin and ovaries contain enough poison to kill a human. The restaurant in Osaka was raided as there are legal restrictions on serving the species, and chefs must be licenced even to serve the non-poisonous parts of the fish. In 1975 revered Japanese actor Band? Mitsugor? died of pufferfish poisoning. He believed he was immune to the poison and ate four pufferfish livers in a Kyoto restaurant. He died later the same evening. Read The Guardian’s article on this story here.

Bluefin Tuna: Evidence was found this month that Atlantic bluefin tuna may be spawning in the North East Atlantic in an area of open ocean off the coast of New England and in another area in the mid-Atlantic. Previously Atlantic bluefin tuna were thought to spawn only in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea. If the new spawning grounds are confirmed it will be good news for the stability of bluefin tuna stocks, although there are fears that it will be used to increase the fishing intensity of this hugely valuable but massively overfished species. Read more here.

Shark Fin Soup: Following their excellent article on the illegal and unreported trade in silver eels last month The Guardian this month turned their attention to the dangers of shark fin soup – for humans as well as sharks. The trade in shark fins is fuelled by ever increasing demand from China where they are considered to be a luxury food. Usually the fins are shredded and used to add thickness and texture to soup, with The Guardian reporting that in the most expensive restaurants a bowl of shark fin soup can cost an incredible £180. The Guardian article states that the value of shark fins means that fishermen can make extremely large sums of money in a short amount of time, but the damage to shark numbers is immense, with blue, great white, tiger, mako, hammerhead, dusky and silky sharks all being caught for their fins. The article states that the future for shark fin soup is mixed. Health scares over the mercury levels in shark fins have led to some consumers reducing their consumption of the soup, while rising awareness of the endangered status of many shark species is also having an impact. However, the fact that the demand for shark fin soup rose by 90% over the Chinese New Year period shows that there is still massive demand for shark fins throughout the world’s most highly populated country. Read the full Guardian article here.

Shark Fin Arrest: In a related story police in Hong Kong arrested two women who were trying to smuggle large quantities of endangered fish species into the country. The women were arriving in Hong Kong from Spain via Turkey and were found to have 63kg of European silver eels (which are considered Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as well as 46kg of hammerhead shark fins, a species which is classed as Vulnerable. It is unknown what happened to the women after being arrested but the penalty for illegal smuggling of endangered species in Hong Kong is a fine of up to $5,000,000 HK (approx.. £450,000) and a prison sentence of up to two years. The Hong Kong police reported that this was the fourth time that people had been arrested for attempting to illegally smuggle European eels into Hong Kong, underlining the financial rewards which can be gained from successfully getting this species into Asia. Read more here.

Dolphins: People on a wildlife cruise were able to view almost two hundred dolphins in a feeding frenzy off the coast of Cornwall this month. The cruise was for students from the University of Exeter who had hoped to see harbour porpoises, but instead saw the common dolphins feeding on shoals of herring. This species of dolphin is usually found offshore in deeper waters but are thought to have come into the shallower waters of Falmouth Bay due to natural tidal patterns and the movement of the herring they were feeding on. Read more by clicking here.

Britain’s National Fish: A vote is taking place to decide on the national fish of Britain. A wide selection of freshwater and marine species has been narrowed down to ten species from each environment, with one eventually being chosen as Britain’s national fish. Cast your vote for the shortlisted species by clicking here.

Pulse Trawling: The controversial method of trawling which uses electricity to shock fish out of the seabed was heavily criticised this month. Pulse trawling is a method of fishing where powerful electrodes are used to create an electric field around the fishing gear which shocks and stuns fish out of the seabed, making them easier for the trawl net to scoop up and also producing considerable fuel savings for the trawler. Pioneered by the Dutch, pulse trawling is now becoming increasingly common off the coast of the British Isles, with the £250,000 cost of converting a traditional trawler to a pulse trawler being quickly paid back by the increased catches and fuel savings. While proponents of pulse trawling point to the lower levels of environmental damage due to the lighter nets and gear, pulse trawling remains extremely controversial.Jean-Luc Solandt of the Marine Conservation Society states that no proper scientific trails have been carried out on the impact that pulse trawling has on the seabed or fish stocks, with the impact on juvenile fish a particular worry, while Jeremy Percy, director of Low Impact Fishers of Europe, likens pulse trawling to fracking, stating that: “It’s meant to be squeaky-clean and wonderful, but it may very well not be. The real problem is that we just don’t know.” Recent years have seen Dutch fishermen successfully lobby to allow ten per cent of their fishing fleet to be made up of pulse trawlers, and because of the Common Fisheries Policy they can fish to within twelve miles of the British coastline. It remains to be see just how common pulse trawling will become, and exactly what impact it will have on Britain’s, and Europe’s, fish stocks. Read the British Sea Fishing article on pulse trawling here, and The Independent’s article here.

UK Beach Litter: The amount of litter found on Britain’s beaches rose by a third last year, according to a report published by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). The organisation arranged a UK-wide beach clean last September and found that litter levels had risen, with an average of 99 plastic bottles, 208 shards of glass and 960 small pieces of plastic found per kilometre of beach. As well as being directly dropped on the beach, litter could end up on beaches by being blown there from land or sea or flowing down along rivers. The MCS put forward the idea that introducing a deposit system on plastic bottles and aluminium cans would encourage consumers to recycle and cut the amount of litter. Read the full Guardian report on this story by clicking here.

Puppet Show: An innovative new puppet show based on trawler fishing will tour around the UK in the coming months. In Our Hands tells the story of Alf and his struggles to adapt as the fishing industry changes. Click here for more details.