May 2015 – News

There were claims this month that the demand for sustainable sea food was itself unsustainable. A report in the nature magazine and website On Earth stated that there is a limit to how much seafood we can sustainably catch – that is indeed what makes it sustainable seafood. However, consumers were demanding that more and more seafood is labelled as sustainable, leading to suppliers breaking promises about catch methods, location of catches and fish sizes, and accreditors correspondingly lowering their own standards over what is classified as sustainable. The MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) which is used by many British companies and retailers has come in for particular criticism, with one long-line swordfish fishery classed as sustainable even though it caught five times as many blue sharks as it did swordfish.

Jim Barnes, director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, summed up the situation by stating:

“There are not enough truly sustainable fisheries on earth to sustain the demand,”

Read the full article here

A massive conger eel was caught off the coast of Devon by a commercial fishing vessel this month. The trawler Hope inadvertently caught the eel in its nets while fishing for other species, and took the eel back to shore where it was gutted and weighed. Some pictures showed the eel to be 20ft long, although this was caused by an optical illusion and the eel was actually just over 7ft and weighed 131lb (although some reports state that this was after it was gutted). Read more and see pictures of the eel here.

In early April it was revealed that a seal cull is taking place across the UK, despite seals being a protected species. The Daily Mirror reported that hundreds of seals were killed in Scotland last year to protect the stocks of salmon fish farms. This cull was allowed to happen as there is a loophole in the regulations allowing seals to be killed to protect fish stocks or fishing equipment. The Daily Mirror highlighted that there was little control or verification of the number of seals which were killed, and no need to keep records, and also said that seals were killed all year round, including in the breeding season meaning that young seals would be left to starve to death if their mothers were culled. Read the Daily Mirror article here.

Two men were rescued by Clacton RNLI while fishing in a home-made boat off the Essex coast. The men had made the boat out of loft insulation, scrap plywood, coat hangers and silicone adhesive and had successfully caught a few fish around 200 metres off the shore. The men claimed that the boat was “stable” and the fishing had been “successful” and they only got into difficulties when the conditions turned choppy and their oars snapped as they headed for home. While the incident was reported in a humorous manner in many of the national papers and websites the RNLI pointed out that the men had no safety gear or lifejackets and could easily have been swept out to sea if they had not been rescued. See pictures of the home made boat here.

There were also claims this month that warming seas around the UK would lead to the species of fish found in British waters changing dramatically. In the news which was reported by the BBC (see article here) that common British species such as cod, plaice, haddock and dab would decline in number as they move away to colder waters, and be replaced with species such as red mullet and John Dory. It is believed that the changed would take place over the next fifty years.

Distressing news emerged at the end of May when The Guardian reported that 200,000 shark fins worth around $1.5million were seized in the Ecuadorian port city of Manta. A representative of the Ecuadorian police said that six people had been arrested and the fins were set to be exported to China, where there is immense demand for shark fins to be used as an ingredient in shark fin soup. While the news of the seizure will be welcomed by conservation groups it is an illustration of the immense pressure that all shark species are under due to the demand for their fins. Read The Guardian article on this story here.