November 2019 – News

Controversy as thresher shark landed at Cornish port: The landing of a thresher shark at a Cornish port this month has led to discussion over the rights and wrongs of retaining large sharks. A fishing boat was seen offloading a large thresher shark at Mevagissey harbour, with a photographer capturing images of the shark being hauled from the boat. The images were circulated on social media and by local news outlets, with conservationists and many anglers claiming that the thresher shark should have been released by the crew of the boat. However, some defended the right of the fishermen to retain the shark. It is currently illegal to target thresher sharks in Atlantic waters, although they can be retained if they are inadvertently caught as bycatch. Read more and see images of the shark by clicking here.

Man claims that he has broken bass record but had to return fish: An angler has claimed that he caught a bass which would have easily surpassed the current record but due to EU conservation rules he was forced to return the fish, meaning that he could not submit it to claim the record. The article on this story in the Sun is light on detail but says that Oban Jones, 19, was “fishing for whiting for his supper” when he caught the bass, which he fought for twenty minutes before landing. The location where Jones was fishing is not mentioned, but as it says the bass would beat a 32-year-old record it can be assumed that he was fishing on a boat as the current boat record was set in 1987, but the shore caught record for bass was set in 2012. According the Sun Jones stated that the bass he caught was 3½ ft long and well over 20lbs, which would have easily beat the 19lb 9oz boat caught record. Current rules state that recreational anglers must return any bass they catch between the breeding season of 1st November and 31st December, meaning that Jones had no option other than to return the bass. Read more on the Sun website here.

Dumped commercial fishing gear is biggest source of plastic pollution: New research which was publicised this month has found that dumped, lost and abandoned commercial fishing gear is the biggest source of plastic pollution in the world’s seas and oceans. The report by Greenpeace found that 640,000 tons of commercial fishing gear is dumped in the seas each year, a weight equivalent to 55,000 double-decker buses. Nets, lines, traps and pots were the most common items discarded. Much of the fishing gear becomes so-called “ghost-gear” as it continues to catch and trap fish and other forms of marine life for many years, possibly decades, before it breaks down. The report stated that as much as seventy per cent of the plastic pollution larger than 20cm in the oceans was made up from commercial fishing gear. Greenpeace called on the United Nations to take action to reduce the problem of lost commercial fishing gear and renewed their call for thirty per cent of the world’s seas and oceans to be ocean sanctuaries by the year 2030. Click here to read the full article.

Two super trawlers operating off the coast of Cornwall: Last month we reported on the Margiris, the second largest fishing vessel in the world, was fishing in the English Channel (and also fishing in a protected area while it was there). This month two further supertrawlers – the 9,500-ton Willem van der Zwan and the 7,000 ton Afrika – both fished off the coast of Cornwall. According to the Cornwall Live website the vessels were targeting mackerel which will be sold to Russian, Japanese and Nigerian markets. Both vessels are factory trawlers which are capable of catching and processing hundreds of tons of fish each day. Conservationists were concerned over the impact the vessels would have on local fish stocks and the wider ecosystem, and there are also fears that such huge vessels operating in the area will lead to cetacean deaths and strandings. However, as both vessels are operating legally under current EU rules there is nothing that the UK can do to remove the vessels from its waters. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Using mosquito nets for fishing is a major issue in developing countries: The use of mosquito nets has been a huge success story in many parts of the developing world as cases of malaria have plummeted. However, a joint study by Swansea University and Stockholm University has found that in some countries the nets are being repurposed for fishing with devastating consequences for marine and freshwater ecosystems. Researchers found that a single sweep with the nets caught almost the same amount of fish as half a day’s fishing with a traditional net, and everything in the path of the net was caught. Dozens of species of fish were being caught, including juvenile fish which were just a few centimetres in size. Seagrass beds, which are essential to bind sediment to the seabed and provide a habitat for a range of wildlife, were also being devastated by the nets. As mosquito nets are provided for free the use of such nets is widespread and there is only limited research has been carried out on the long term impacts of using mosquito nets for fishing across the less developed areas of Africa. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Deep sea mining could begin to supply electric car batteries: The move to phase out petrol and diesel cars and replace them with electric vehicles could see large scale mining of the ocean floor. This is because cobalt, an essential component in electric car batteries, is abundant in rocks and stones on and underneath the seabed. Tests are already taking place off the coast of Spain to see how a tracked underwater vehicle known as Apollo II can be used to mine the seabed, although these tests will also measure the impact that such mining will have on the environment. Potentially deep sea mining could expand to the scale of open cast mines being dug on the seabed, with machines collecting rocks and mineral and then sending them up to the surface where they will be processed on ships and then transported back to shore. The major fears are that the machines used to mine the seabed will both destroy anything in their path and also send plumes of silt and sand into the sea which will spread far beyond the area being mined. This silt and sand could smother ocean life, affect filter feeding organisms and block out light from reaching marine vegetation. Current plans do not go beyond testing, but the growing demand for cobalt and other mineral which are present on the seabed will see the pressure to allow deep sea mining grow in coming years. Read more here.

Iceland’s mackerel catch increase could put stocks at risk: Iceland and Greenland have been heavily criticised after leaked papers showed that they were planning to unilaterally increase their catch of Atlantic mackerel, a move which could lead to the so-called Mackerel War re-igniting. The Mackerel War began in 2010 when Iceland and the Faroe Islands hugely increase their quota for Atlantic Mackerel. This infuriated European Union nations and Norway who had been fishing for mackerel within sustainable limits. The situation is now being repeated with Iceland reportedly increasing their mackerel catch from 108,000 to 140,000 tons and Greenland increasing their catch to 70,000 tons. Russia will also be catching more mackerel. European Union nations, along with Norway, have reacted with fury, as they have been limiting their own mackerel catches to ensure that the stock remains healthy and sustainable. However, Iceland and the Faroe Islands are not members of the European Union and are therefore not bound by its rules and regulations on catches and quotas, meaning they are acting legally when they increase their catches of mackerel. The EU has responded by saying that Icelandic vessels may be barred from landing their catches in EU ports and the country may face future EU sanctions. Read more on this story by clicking here.

EU and USA block international protection for threatened mako sharks: The annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) took place this month with new protection for threatened mako sharks being high on the agenda. ICCAT scientists have warned that it may take many decades for this species to recover to healthy levels – even if fishing for mako sharks stops entirely due to the slow growing and late maturing nature of this species. ICCAT scientists urged that a ban on retaining shortfin makos in the North Atlantic was implemented, with ten countries agreeing that the ban should be put in place. However the European Union and the USA refused to agree to the ban, effectively blocking it from being implemented and allowing hundreds of tons of the endangered sharks to be landed each year. Ali Hood, the director of conservation for the Shark Trust said: “The EU’s behaviour with respect to mako conservation is a travesty. Their obstruction of vital, science-based protections will allow vast fleets from Spain and Portugal to continue to fish these Endangered sharks, essentially without limit, and drive valuable populations toward collapse.” Click here to read more on this story.