May 2018 – News

Fifty small shark species was up on Welsh beach: Around fifty small shark species, mostly lesser-spotted dogfish, have washed up on Rhossili beach on the Gower peninsula. It is not known how or why the sharks ended up dead on the beach, but it is though that they may have been dumped as unwanted bycatch from a commercial fishing vessel or possibly caught in an illegal gill net and then discarded. Read more and see pictures by clicking here.

Up to 1.5 million wild wrasse caught to be used as cleaner fish in fish farms: In related news is has been announced that guidelines will be brought in to protect wrasse and lumpsucker stocks from over-exploitation by the fish farming industry. With high levels of chemicals and bleaching are having to be used to rid salmon of parasites fish farms are keen to witch to using species such as wrasse and lumpsucker to pick sea lice off the salmon, as this is seen as a more natural and less harmful way of ridding the salmon of parasites. However, this has led to huge numbers of wrasse and lumpsucker being taken from the wild, mostly from the coastline of south west England, and transported to Scottish fish farms. There is little to no regulation on the number or size of wrasse which can be caught for use in fish farms, and once the wrasse have grown too large to be used as cleaner fish they are incinerated. The Scottish government has admitted that around 1.5 million cleaner fish (mostly wrasse and lumpsucker) were used in 2016, and while some were farmed most were taken from the wild. Fish farms have been allowed to catch huge numbers of wrasse despite no assessments of numbers being carried out and no consideration of the impact of removing hundreds of thousands of fish from the wild. While the new guidelines which will cover the minimum and maximum sizes of the cleaner fish which can be caught, and the types of traps which can be used they are voluntary regulations and have been heavily criticised by conservationist and campaigners for being too little too late. Read more here.

Unidentified sea creature washes up on Welsh beach: The carcass of a sea creature – which has so far remained unidentified – has washed up on a beach at Gower in south Wales. The five foot long carcass was found by a dog walker and resemble a crocodile, but experts have ruled this out. While it is likely to be the remains of a whale, dolphin or porpoise (at the time of writing) the exact species which has washed up on the beach remains a mystery. Read more and see pictures by clicking here.

Stags and deer on Scottish Island found tangled in commercial fishing gear: A stag has been seen on the Scottish island of Rum with fishing ropes and a float stuck in its antlers, while two deer have died after they became tangled together with fishing rope in their antlers. It is believed that some deer on the island feed on seaweed, explaining how they may have become tangled up in the fishing gear. The images are a stark warning which abandoned and lost commercial fishing gear can have on wildlife and have led to calls for action to be taken to reduce the amount of fishing gear which is lost and more robust procedures to clear up fishing gear which ends up washed up onto beaches. Read more by clicking here.

Scottish fishermen’s chief criticises EU fisheries policy: Bertie Armstrong, the CEO of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has renewed his call for the UK to manage its own fisheries after Brexit, and warned that the EU will push for Britain to stay in the Common Fisheries Policy after the transition period ends in 2020. Despite Theresa May stating repeatedly that Britain will become an independent coastal state after leaving the EU the vast majority of the fishing industry are suspicious that fishing rights will be traded away for concessions on trade or access to EU markets. The fact that Britain will leave the EU in 2019 but have to follow the Common Fisheries Policy (despite having no say in setting the rules or quotas) until the end of 2020 was seen as evidence of this. Bertie Armstrong also criticised the fact that many of the 750 MEPs and EU nations which have a say in deciding the rules, regulations and fishing policies which the UK has to follow do not have a fishing industry, or even a coastline of their own. Click here to read more.

Washed up dolphin carcasses lead to great white shark speculation: Two half eaten dolphin carcasses which have washed up on a beach in Great Yarmouth have led to speculation in some newspapers that a great white shark could be present in British waters. The Daily Mail was one of a number of newspapers which ran the story. Last year half eaten seals were washed up in the same area, and porpoises with large bite marks across their bodies have also been found there in previous years. Warming sea temperatures do mean that the waters around the British Isles could be habitable for great white sharks, although it is more likely that another shark species or a killer whale was responsible. Read more by clicking here.

Porbeagle shark caught and commercial fisherman bitten: Two stories relating to porbeagle sharks made the news this month. In the first a 250lb porbeagle shark was caught by boat anglers off the coast of Whitby in North Yorkshire. The shark was reeled in after a forty minute battle fifteen miles out to sea. The shark was released back into the sea after being photographed. Click here to read more and see pictures. In another incident an 8ft porbeagle shark was inadvertently caught by a commercial fishing vessel off the coast of Cornwall. As the crew were trying to manoeuvre the shark back into the sea it bit a crew member on the leg. The man then had to be airlifted to hospital due to the injury he sustained. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Herald article examines the issues facing the Scottish salmon farming industry: Farmed Scottish salmon is now a £600 million industry and is a highly regarded food, being served to members of the Royal Family at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011 and at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Despite this reputation as a premium food there are major problems in the Scottish salmon farming industry which have been examined in an article in the Herald. The article looks at a report from the Scottish parliament stated that the industry would cause irrecoverable damage” to marine life if it was not reformed, and the rapidly expanding industry has faced a barrage of criticism from conservationist and environmental campaigners. The issue of parasitic sea lice plaguing salmon farms is one of the biggest issues facing the industry, with huge numbers of wild wrasse being taken to act as cleaner fish to pick parasites off the salmon is also being highly criticised. Other issues include the high mortality rates (up to one fifth of salmon die before being harvested), waste and effluent from fish farms causing pollution, high levels of antibiotics and chemicals being used to treat salmon with sea lice, powerful sonar devices designed to keep away seals affecting whales and dolphins and seals being shot in order to protect fish farm stocks. With plans to more than double the output of the Scottish salmon farming industry by 2030 these issues will become more pressing. Now pressure appears to be building on the Scottish salmon farming industry. A petition calling for better procedures to treat the pollution caused by fish farms attracted over 35,000 signatures, and there now appears to be a growing political and public consensus that the environmental impact of fish farming means that the expansion of Scotland’s fish farming industry cannot continue unchecked. Read the full article here.

Global fisheries could dramatically change due to warming seas: The impact of climate change could see hundreds of species of fish move northwards as warming seas force them from their traditional grounds, according to a new study. Published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, the study said that up to seven hundred species found in the waters around North America, including key commercial species such as king crab, bass and cod, could migrate hundreds of miles if waters continue to warm up, with the same happening to species found in European waters. Helen McLachlan of the Worldwide Fund for Nature said that cod could leave UK waters and be replaced by species such as anchovies and squid, leaving fishing communities “radically transformed.” Read more by clicking here.

Once again plastic pollution and its impact on the marine environment has been high up the news agenda with a number of stories on this topic:

  • Disintegrating paper bottles could help solve plastic pollution crisis: A fully biodegradable bottle which is made from paper and plant based materials could go a long way to helping reduce plastic pollution in the world’s seas and oceans. Edinburgh-based chemistry graduate James Longcroft developed the bottle after launching a not-for-profit company which aimed to provide safe drinking water to poor parts of Africa. However, concern over the impact of plastic pollution lead to Longcroft putting his time and resources into developing an alternative to plastic bottles. The biodegradable bottle he has developed is described as a paper bottle with a waterproof lining. When left in saltwater it rots away from the outside in, meaning it has essentially disappeared within three weeks. The bottle only costs around 5p more to manufacture than a standard plastic bottle and Longcroft hopes his invention could revolutionise the plastic bottle industry. Read more on this story by clicking here.
  • BBC article on unusual plastic items recovered from UK beaches: An article on the BBC website this month looked at the people who spend their time recovering the sometimes strange and unusual plastic items which have been found on beaches across the country. The article stated that rather than old-fashioned beachcombing, a new breed of eco-conscious hobbyists are helping to improve the marine environment by removing plastic items from beaches. One person interviewed by the BBC for the article referred to her hobby as “beach archaeology” and said she had found a range of interesting items which she had been able to trace back to their original owners. These included small plastic toys which were found to come free with a brand of breakfast cereal in the 1950s, a lab coat which was traced back to its owner in Holland and small biro pens which are believed to have come from a betting shop in London and ended up in the sea after falling into a drain outside of the shop. False teeth were another common find, although their origin remained a mystery. Read the full article by clicking here.
  • Balloons released in UK kill marine life in the North Sea and beyond: Beaches across Europe are being littered with balloons released from the UK, with campaigners now calling for this practice to be banned. While balloons are made of latex which will naturally degrade this process can take more than a year when the balloons are in saltwater, and marine animals such as seals, dolphins and sea birds can attempt to eat balloons and end up choking to death. Many balloon released are done to as part of celebrations or to promote companies, with conservationists in the Netherlands claiming that 13,000 balloons a week wash up on their coastline, with a large proportion of these coming from the UK. Many councils in the UK have banned balloon releases on their land, while Gibraltar authorities have said that they will no longer carry out their traditional balloon release as part of their National Day. Campaigners and conservationists will hope that this trend continues, particularly with the attention which the impact of plastic pollution is now getting in the media. Click here to read more on this story.
  • Plastic pollution found in the deepest known part of the world’s ocean: A thirty year research study has found plastic pollution in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific, the deepest known part of the ocean. At its deepest point the Mariana Trench is 10,990 metres (around 36,000 feet) deep. Using remotely controlled submersible vehicles scientists were able to take footage at the bottom of the trench and found that plastic pollution – including fragments of a carrier bag – were present. The discovery shows how widespread plastic pollution is, and even the deepest and most remote parts of the world’s seas and oceans can still be affected by plastic waste. Read more by clicking here.
  • Supermarket to cut down on plastic use: Supermarket chain Morrisons is to allow customers to bring in their own plastic containers to take meat and fish products home in an attempt to cut down on plastic pollution. The supermarket will also examine how it can reduce plastic packaging in the own brand products it sells. Read more here.

Killer whales spotted off coast of Northumberland: Last month killer whales were spotted in the River Clyde in Scotland, a rare sighting in British waters. This month more killer whales have been seen off the coastline of the UK, this time off the coast of Northumberland. The killer whales were seen by Glen Annison, a lobster fisherman from Seahouses was able to photograph the killer whales six miles out to sea as he was hauling in lobster pots. It is thought that the killer whales may be in the area to feed on seals which are found around the Farne Islands. Click here to read more.

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