March 2017 – News

UK Set To Reclaim Fishing Waters?: There has been much debate over how UK fisheries will fare after Britain has left the European Union. While left-leaning papers such as the Guardian have consistently argued that EU nations may continue to access the UK’s fishing ground post Brexit there have been a number of news stories arguing the opposite this month. The Telegraph for example claimed that Theresa May is only weeks away from announcing that the UK will reclaim its fishing waters once the Brexit process is complete and the country has left the European Union. The paper claimed that within weeks Theresa May is set to take the UK out of the 1964 London convention which allows European fishing vessels to access British fishing waters. If this does happen another agreement is sure to take its place it the UK will no longer be bound by the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy which treats all fish in European waters as a common resource and means that any EU country with a fishing industry has the right to catch fish in UK waters. Many in the British fishing industry have been concerned that fisheries and fishing rights have been given little attention since the Brexit vote in June of last year, especially when politicians such as Nigel Farage and other prominent leave campaigners put regaining control of fisheries as a major reason for leaving the EU. Click here to read more on this story on the Telegraph website here.

Great White Sharks in UK Waters?: A wildlife expert has claimed that British waters are “absolutely perfect” for great white sharks. Richard Peirce, an author and shark conservationist, said that water temperatures around the UK were ideal for great white sharks, and we have an abundant supply of animals such as seals which great whites feed on. Indeed, Peirce claimed the only reason great white sharks were not seen around the UK was that there are now only low numbers of the sharks present around the world. Read more on this here.

Tropical Shark Washes Up on Plymouth Beach: A crocodile shark was found washed up on an English beach this month. The species of shark – which has the scientific name Pseudocarcharias kamoharai – is usually found in the warm waters around the equator but the carcass of one was found at Hope Cove in Plymouth. This species has never been reported as being found in UK waters before. Its common name of crocodile shark is derived from its many sharp teeth and tendency to snap when taken out of the water. However, this species only grows to around 4ft (120cm) in length and is of no threat to humans. It is not known how the crocodile shark came to be present off the coast of the UK. One theory is that it may have travelled from warmer waters and died when it could not adaptt to the colder UK waters. Another theory is that it could have been caught in warmer waters and then discarded by a fishing vessel near to the UK. Crocodile sharks are not commercially valuable but they are classed as Near Threatened (NT) by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as huge numbers are killed in nets set for species such as tuna. Read more and see pictures on the BBC News website by clicking here.

Haddock Stock Level Disagreement: The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has removed haddock from their green list of sustainable fish to eat due to concerns over stock levels in the North Sea and the west of Scotland. However, another international body the Marine Stewardship Council – which has the confusingly similar acronym of MSC – has contradicted this advice and stated that consumers can enjoy haddock with a “clear conscience.” Commercial fishermen criticised the move, saying that haddock stocks were healthy, and there is also concern that having two different sustainability ratings from two different organisations will confuse consumers. Read the BBC article on this story by clicking here.

Guardian Sustainable Halibut Claim: The Guardian followed up the news about haddock being downgraded in its sustainability rating with an article entitled Haddock has taken a battering – so what now for your fish and chips? In this article they sought the advice of a number of different people over what species could be eaten as sustainable alternative to haddock. In the article someone called Susana Coelho from La Petite Poissonnerie in Primrose Hill suggested that halibut was a sustainable alternative to cod, despite Atlantic halibut being classed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, meaning that it is at high risk of becoming extinct in the wild. Poorly researched articles such as this do more harm than good to fish stocks as they spread inaccurate information, meaning that people will make poor choices about the sustainability of the fish they eat. In this case the Guardian are effectively encouraging people to switch from eating relatively sustainable haddock and instead eat endangered halibut. The full Guardian article can be read here.

Update: British Sea Fishing contacted the Guardian about the article and we are pleased to say that the Guardian was receptive to our concerns. They have amended the article to highlight that Atlantic halibut are endangered and also noted that the article has been changed on their Corrections and Clarifications page which can be viewed here.

Australian Fishermen Catch Weird Creature: Fishermen in Australia caught a weird and usual creature in the form of an armoured sea robin this month. The prehistoric-looking creatures are usually found in several hundred metres of water and live and feed on the seabed. Read more and see pictures by clicking here.

EU Funding for Climate Change Research: The European Union will give £6million to two projects which aim to calculate the risk posed to the Irish and Welsh fishing industries by climate change. The project will look at how climate change is effecting fish stocks, changing the migration patterns of fish and bringing non-native species into Irish and Welsh waters. Read more here.

Sainsbury’s Best for MSC Certified Fish: The MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) has produced a league table showing which supermarkets sell the most sustainable fish. Sainsbury’s came out on top when it emerged that they sold more MSC labelled fish than any other supermarket in the UK, or indeed the world. Waitrose, Lidl, Tescos and Aldi were also praised for the amount of sustainable fish they sold, but Morrisons was bottom of the table. The Marine Stewardship Council is an independent, non-profit organisation which assesses fisheries and then decides if they are sustainable. Only fisheries which have been investigated by the MSC’s team of experts and verified as sustainable can display the blue MSC ecolabel on their packaging. However, the MSC has itself been criticised for relaxing its assessment criteria and certifying too many fisheries as sustainable. Click here to read more here.

Humpback Whale Pictures: An amateur photographer has captured amazing pictures of a humpback whale breaching (jumping out of the water) in the Firth of Forth. Allan Brown, 67, from Kirkcaldy heard that a whale had been sighted in the area and managed to capture the dramatic images of the whale. It is not known why large whales and other marine mammals breach. Theories put forward to explain this behaviour include communicating with other whales, ridding themselves of parasites, breathing in air away from surface spray or simply playing. Read more and see pictures here.

Oceans Warming Faster: New research shows that earth’s oceans are warming much faster than previously thought. A new system to measure the temperature of the oceans uses thousands of floats spread across the seas and oceans of the world which can measure the temperature down to 2000 metres and transmit the data they gather to satellites. The data shows that not only are the oceans warming at a faster rate than previously realised but most of the warming has happened in recent years. Carbon emissions caused by burning fossil fuels are a major cause of ocean warming and the consequences of even small rises in sea temperature can be dramatic. Warmer seas will cause arctic ice to melt which will raise sea levels and increase the chances of flooding, but fish and other marine creatures will also change their behaviour. Species such as cod and haddock which prefer colder water may move further north and other warmer water species will move from their natural distribution and into new areas which as yet unknown consequences for the marine ecosystems they colonise. Warmer oceans also hold less oxygen, meaning there could be cases of fish dying off in large numbers and some oxygen depleted areas may even become uninhabitable to most marine life. Read more in the Guardian by clicking here.

Fin Whale Washes Up on Devon Coast: A huge fin whale – the second largest animal in the world – has washed up on a rocky area of the Devon coastline. The creature was heavily decomposed once it was washed onto the land, the cause of death is as yet unknown. Fin whales are classed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. At their largest they can reach sizes of 27 metres in length and weigh well over 100 tons. Read more by clicking here.

Sharp Rise in Dolphin Deaths in Cornwall: The number of dolphins washing up dead on the Cornish coast has continued to rise. In January and February of this year there were 125 dolphins found washed up, compared to 36 in the same two months of 2016 and just 14 in January and February 2015. Conservation campaigners have said that the commercial fishing industry is to blame as dolphins are coming closer to the shore to feed and becoming caught in fishing nets, although pollution and lack of food are also thought to be causes of the rise in dolphin deaths. Post-mortems of thirteen of the dead dolphins found that five had been caught in fishing nets and other died of natural causes. Click here to read more.

Shark Attacks Reunion Island: Last month the world champion surfer Kelly Slater sparked controversy when he said that sharks should be culled around Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean which is a region of France. He called for the cull after 26-year-old body boarder Alexandre Naussance was killed off the coast of Reunion, the eighth death caused by a shark since 2011. However, conservation charities and organisations heavily criticised Slater, pointing out that shark numbers have declined markedly in recent years and surfers are entering the sharks natural habitat when they choose to go surfing. The Economist looked at why shark attacks have risen around Reunion Island. They found that up to a decade ago shark attacks in that area were rare and a number of causes have been put forward to explain why they are rising. These include the creation of a marine reserve in the 2000s and a ban on shark meat in the 1990s (both of which experts say are unlikely to have much of an effect) and the overfishing of other species meaning that sharks are more likely to attack humans as they have less of their natural prey to feed on. The government of the island has spent millions on anti-shark measures such as nets and screened off areas, and surfing is only permitted in two areas which have these protections, although many surfers continue to go surfing in places where it is banned. There are fears that the bad publicity caused by continuing shark attacks may negatively impact Reunion’s tourism industry, and the government may react with a cull. Read the full article on the Economist website here. The Guardian had their own take on this issue, with Dr. Lauren Smith, a biologist for Marine Scotland, writing that a shark cull around Reunion wouldn’t work. Instead she suggested aerial patrols, shark spotters, beach closures when a large shark has been reported in the area, non-lethal capture and research into shark repellents as ways in which people could be kept safe without harming sharks. Read the article here.

Man Caught With £1.2million Of Silver Eels: A man was caught allegedly attempting to illegally export £1.2million of glass eels at Heathrow Airport. Glass eels are one of the early life stages of the silver eel, a species classed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Silver eels were once abundant across Europe but their numbers have collapsed to such an extent they are now in serious danger of extinction. A number of measures have been put in place to help silver eels recover including removing obstacles to migration, reducing the number of juvenile eels which are caught commercially and catching eels in certain areas to restock others. A major measure has been banning the export of eels outside of the EU. This is seen as an important step as there is huge demand for eels across Asia where they are seen as a delicacy. The 64-year-old man was caught with around 600,000 eels hidden underneath fresh fish which was being legally exported to Hong Kong. The eels were sent back to Spain, the country which they had originally came from. Read more and see pictures here.

Toxic Chemicals in Farmed Salmon: The last few months have brought a number of stories over the problem salmon farms are having with sea lice infestations. This month it was claimed that a chemical which is being used to treat salmon and remove sea lice in two Scottish fish farms is a threat to human health. The Daily Mail states that the chemical emamectin benzoate was used to treat salmon but samples showed that fish were treated with levels of the chemical above the permitted level. Instead of being destroyed the fish were harvested and sold, according to the newspaper. As well as being harmful to humans the chemical can also damage other forms of marine life, but the Scottish government say that there was no risk due to the time which elapsed between the chemical being administered to the fish and the fish being harvested. The incident happened last year and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency said that it was reviewing fish farming licences permitting the use of the chemical with a view to tightening controls. Read the full Daily Mail article by clicking here. This month the Guardian also wrote of a “chemical arms race in the seas” as the salmon industry battles against the increasing number of sea lice with higher levels of chemical treatments, antibiotics and pesticides. Read the Guardian article here.

Wrasse Stocks Hit by Salmon Farms: The news about the damaging aspects of salmon farming continues with an article in the international science magazine New Scientist which will be of great concern to sea anglers. The article says that many salmon farms are turning to “cleaner fish” such as wrasse to eat parasites off salmon, rather than using chemicals or heat treatments. However, New Scientist says that huge amounts of wrasse are now being taken from the wild in order to stock fish farms with cleaner fish. There are plans to breed wrasse artificially but this will take years before it comes into action and until then the salmon industry will continue to take wrasse from the wild in worryingly high numbers. New Scientist says that Norwegian fishermen took less than two million tons of wrasse in 2008, but last year this had risen to 22 million tons. There have now been calls for urgent regulation of how to protect wrasse, especially in their breeding areas. Read the full New Scientist article by clicking here.

Clothes Blamed for Marine Plastic Pollution: Items of clothing made out of synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon are an increasingly significant form of plastic pollution in the world’s seas and oceans, according to a study carried out in the USA by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. The research found that almost ninety per cent of marine animals analysed had at least one item of plastic inside them, with a huge proportion of this plastic being microfibers from clothing. Fleece jackets, sportswear and leggings are believed to be the major sources of the pollution, with thousands of microfibers being transferred into the sewage system (and eventually into the sea) every time they are washed. While microplastic pollution has received a huge amount of attention in recent years it has almost all been focused on microbeads – the tiny pieces of plastic found in cosmetic products. This new research shows that microfibers may actually be a much bigger issue and the cause of much more environmental harm. Read more by clicking here.

Edible Beer Can Holder to Reduce Pollution: An American brewery has invented a beer can holder which is edible, meaning that this source of marine pollution can be seriously reduced, or even eliminated. Saltwater Brewery in Florida has developed the beer can holder from by-products of the brewing process and claims that it will biodegrade quickly, but if animals do come across the product it will be edible to them. Beer can holders (also known as binders) are sold throughout the world to keep cans of beer together when they are being transported and stocked on supermarket shelves. As they are made out of plastic they take many years to rot away and cause immense damage to the marine environment. Large species of marine mammals such as seals can choke on them when they mistake them for food and try and eat them, while sea birds can get their feet and wings tangled in them. Greenpeace has backed the initiative and there are hopes that other manufacturers could follow by creating similar types of beer can holders. However, the Marine Conservation Society sounded a note of caution, stating that barley and wheat (which are the main components of the biodegradable beer can holders) are not the natural food of marine creatures and the long term effects of fish eating this type of food are unknown. Read the full article on this topic on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.

Norwegian Government Ocean Cleanup: The government of Norway is to spend around £10million to remove litter from the sea. The Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that Norway aimed to take an international leading role in renewable use of the oceans resources and would put the money towards international efforts to remove ocean litter, including microplastics. The initiative is part of a wider multi-billion kroner move to tackle climate change. Read more here.

Major Progress in Battle Against Illegal Fishing: Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) is a major issue facing the world, with an estimated $23.5 billion of illegal fish being caught every year. However, this month it was announced that real progress is being made against IUU. This is due to Project Scale, an initiative between the international police agency Interpol, a number of national governments led by Norway and the Pew Charitable Trust. Project Scale involves countries working closely together to share information about illegal fishing and brought in a new system to stop unscrupulous fishermen from bypassing legislation by repeatedly changing the flag and country of registration of fishing vessels. One of the most prominent successes of Project Scale has been stopping the Thunder and the Kunlun – notorious fishing vessels which have now been stopped from fishing and the crew members and owners given bans, prison sentences and fines totalling millions of dollars for IUU fishing. The Pew Charitable Trust has called on more countries to join and work with Project Scale so that more can be done to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Read more here.

Shark Found 12 Miles Inland After Australian Flood: In a scene reminiscent of the Sharknado series of films a five foot long bull shark was discovered twelve miles inland in Ayr, Northen Queensland in Australia. The shark was found after the area had been battered by 160mph winds as Cyclone Debbie swept through the north east of the country. While some media outlets seemed to believe the shark was propelled inland through the air by the storm it is much more probable that the shark swam inland while the area was flooded and was then left stranded when the floodwaters receded. Bull sharks have the ability to thrive in water with an extremely low salinity level, meaning they are often found in estuaries and rivers. Read more and see pictures on the Express website by clicking here.

Japanese “Scientific Research” Kills Over 300 Minke Whales: The Japanese whaling fleet has killed 333 minke whales in a highly controversial move which has drawn international condemnation. The 8,100 ton Yushin Maru is the worlds only factory whaling ship and uses explosive tipped harpoons to catch whales. It was accompanied by two other vessels as it hunted for minke whales on a four-month deployment to the Arctic Ocean. Japan circumvents the 1986 international moratorium on whaling by claiming that they are conducting scientific research into Arctic ecosystems, although the meat of the whales they kill is sold commercially. Read more by clicking here.