May 2019 – News

Environmentalist George Monbiot says “stop eating fish”: Prominent environmentalist George Monbiot has written an opinion piece in the Guardian stating that we should stop eating fish in order to save the life in the world’s seas and oceans. Referring to the recent UN report which says that one million species are at risk due to human activity Monbiot says that in the seas “life is collapsing even faster than on land.” Monbiot claims that the seas have been given little coverage in the media, pointing to the hugely popular BBC series Blue Planet Live which only mentioned commercial fishing and its role in damaging the marine environment once. He goes on to describe how the Captain Birdseye image of commercial fishermen is deeply inaccurate and huge industrial vessels instead catch huge amounts of fish, much of which is from the waters of poor nations. Marine Protected Areas are also criticised for offering practically no protection to the fish and marine life inside of them. However, Monbiot’s main point is that “there are almost no fish or shellfish we can safely eat” with even Marine Stewardship Council certificate being meaningless as they provide their seal of approval to tuna fisheries which allow sharks to be caught and finned and also approve scallop dredging which “rips the seabed to shreds.” Monbiot ends by saying that we should “remove our consent” and “stop eating fish” as it is the only way to make a real difference to the marine environment. Read the full article on the Guardian website by clicking here.

Plastic found at deepest known point of world’s ocean: An American explorer has found plastic pollution at the deepest known point of the world’s oceans. Victor Vescovo reached a depth of 10,927m (35,849ft or almost seven miles) below the surface, breaking the previous world record by eleven metres. Vescovo, a private equity investor and former US navy commander turned explorer and mountain climber, made the journey in a 4.6 metre long submersible called DSV Limiting Factor. The submersible has a 9cm thick titanium hull and is designed to withstand the extreme pressure which is encountered at such depths. While Vescovo confirmed that there was life at such depths (they may have discovered four new species of crustaceans) and took seabed samples they also found plastic pollution in the form of sweet wrappers and a plastic bag. The discovery of plastic pollution at such depths highlights how pervasive this type of pollution is, and that it can reach even the deepest parts of the world’s seas and oceans. Read more by clicking here.

1200lb shark caught off Irish coast: An Irish woman caught a 1200lbs six-gill shark off the Irish coast this month. Charlene Dillion was fishing three miles off the coast of Carrigaholt in County Clare when she hooked the huge shark, eventually pulling it alongside the boat after a ninety minute battle. The shark was around 15ft long and estimated as being at least 1200lb, a record for a fish caught by a woman in European waters on rod and line. The Irish Sun report that Ms Dillion works as a carer and has been a keen angler for most of her life, although most of her fishing has been in freshwater. The shark was released after being photographed and swam away from the boat “healthy and unhurt.” Read more here.

Sharks wash up on Welsh beach with fins removed: More than one hundred sharks have washed up dead on a beach in Wales, many with their fins removed. The Marine Conservation Society said that the sharks are most likely to be smooth-hounds, many of which were reported as being pregnant with pups inside of them. Local fishermen speculated that the smooth-hounds may have been caught by trawlers with the fins being removed to be exported to Asian markets where shark fin soup is an expensive delicacy. The woman who discovered and filmed the dead smooth-hounds has not been named but was quoted as saying that she believed that the sharks found on the beach may represent only a small number of the total which were caught and finned. Read more by clicking here.

Ragworm farm plans end in fraud and jail: A long running saga over plans for a huge ragworm farm in Wales have finally reached a conclusion, with the founder of the farm being found guilty of fraud and jailed. In 2002 the BBC reported that there were plans for a 300 pond ragworm farm in the coastal village of Pendine in Carmarthenshire. This was welcomed as the area was an “unemployment blackspot” and up to 150 jobs could be created. The farm would breed ragoworm for use as both a fishing bait and as a feed for commercial fish farms, and there were also hopes that future expansion could see prawns and shrimp being farmed on the site. However, the company which ran the farm went into liquidation in 2011, with the ponds never being completed and reports stating that fewer than ten jobs were created. This month news emerged that Anthony Smith, the founder of the farm and the company which ran it, had pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud in March. The BBC reported that he had lied on grant applications and falsified information in order to receive £4.7 million in funding for his ragworm farming projects. Smith was jailed for three years and nine months. Another man was jailed for twenty-one months and another given a suspended sentence for their parts in the plot. The court also heard that despite the scale of the fraud Smith’s only asset was the £75,000 he had tied up in the value of the family home. He was ordered to repay this sum to the Welsh government. Read more on the BBC website by clicking here.

BBC’s Panorama investigates Scottish salmon farming industry: The BBC’s flagship Panorama programme has focused on the issues surrounding Scottish salmon farming, highlighting the impact that the industry has on the environment. The programme looked at the ways in which salmon farming has become a huge industry and heralded as an economic success story in Scotland. However, the programme drew attention to the levels of pollution caused by salmon farming, the issues with parasites the industry battles with and the high level of fish mortality found in Scottish salmon farms. While many environmentalists and campaigners will be happy that the environmental impact of salmon farming has been given mainstream attention, the SSPO (Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation) accused the BBC of “sensationalism.” The programme is available on the BBC iPlayer until May 2020.

New protected marine zones around the UK announced: The government has announced that forty-one new marine protected zones (MPZs) will be created around England’s coastline. The new areas will cover an area of 12,000 square kilometres (around 4,600 square miles) and mean that there are a total of 355 protected areas around the UK. However, the UK will only be able to ban damaging commercial fishing methods in zones up to twelve nautical miles from the coast, and criticisms continue that MPZs are ‘paper parks’ – areas which have no real protection as many forms of commercial fishing will still be allowed to take place within them. Read more on the Guardian website by clicking here.

Firth of Forth plastic pollution could be worse than previously believed: A study by researchers has found higher than expected levels of plastic pollution in and around the Firth of Forth, suggesting that plastic pollution could be at higher levels than previously estimated. Researchers from the University of Dundee found over 20,000 pieces of plastic pollution over forty-eight square metres of beach across several sites. While around a quarter of the plastic was from litter the rest was made up of nurdles, tiny pellets which are used in the production of plastic, underlining the extent of this type of pollution. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the organisation which has responsibility for protecting Scotland’s natural environment, said that they took the issue “very seriously” and that many of the pellets discovered may be “historic.” Click here to read more on the BBC website.

Coca-Cola products are the most commonly found beachside litter: Research by Surfers Against Sewage has found that products manufactured by Coca-Cola are the most common type of litter found on British beaches, making up 12% of the total. Walkers, Cadbury, McDonalds and Nestle were the other companies which had high levels of litter found. The findings were made by analysing litter gathered during the Big Spring Beach Clean which saw 45,000 volunteers collect litter across the UK. Surfers Against Sewage said that despite companies over a certain size being responsible for the litter and rubbish they product around 90% ended up being dealt with by local authorities. Coca-Cola said that all of their bottles and cans were 100% recyclable, they were one of the few companies to publish the amount of packaging they produced and they supports plans to develop deposit schemes to allow consumers to easily recycle their products. Read more here.

Giant 1.3 ton manta ray caught off coast of India: A manta ray which is believed to be one of the biggest ever captured has been caught off the coast of India. The manta ray – which is believed to weight around 1.3 tons – was caught by a trawler off the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Pictures of the ray being hoist from the boat by a crane while a crowd of people watched were spread across social media, with many conservation groups expressing dismay that the ray had not been returned to the sea. It is believed that the fisherman who owned the trawler sold the ray for £670. Read more and see pictures by clicking here.