November 2021 – News

Man fined £11,000 for unlawful catching of elvers: A man has been fined almost £11,000 after he was caught illegally catching elvers (the baby form of silver eels) on a stretch of the River Severn in Gloucestershire. Philip Croker, 60, had been charged with unlawfully catching the eels at a sluice gate on the river and was caught with around 700 grams of elvers. Anyone fishing for elvers needs to attach a tag to their nets to prove that they have the required authorisation from the Environment Agency. The BBC reported that Croker was convicted of four offences and was given a fine of £300 with a £30 victim surcharge, but was also ordered to pay the costs of the Environment Agency which totally £10,425. The elvers he caught were returned to the river and the net he used was destroyed. Read more on this story on the BBC website by clicking here.

Is climate change driving bluefin tuna into British waters?: An article in the Independent this month asked if climate change and global warming was responsible for the reappearance of bluefin tuna in British waters. In the first half of the twentieth-century bluefin tuna were relatively common around the British Isles, with a big game fishery for the species existing in the North Sea between the 1920s and 1950s. Since then bluefin tuna almost completely disappeared from the UK but began to reappear in 2014 and sightings have increased in regularity since then. Earlier this year a group of around twenty bluefin tuna was spotted off the Cornish coast. It is believed that a natural phenomenon known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation which changes atmospheric and oceanic conditions may be responsible for the return of tuna. Read more here. There have also been further sightings of tuna and other warm-water species in British waters this month. A bluefin tuna was found washed up dead on the edge of a Scottish sea loch. The fish was found by Joline Kohne, a waitress who was driving to work at a hotel in the Highlands. She said that she thought the tuna may have been hit by a boat or caught by a trawler and then discarded overboard and was surprised as despite being a sea loch the location where the tuna was found was very far inland. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Four supertrawlers operating in the English Channel: This month four supertrawlers were operating in the English Channel off the coastlines of Sussex and Kent, leading to fears of stock depletion and dolphin deaths. The 99-metre long Alida and the 126-metre long Carolien were joined by the Scombrus and the Prince Bernhard, both of which are over 80 metres in length. All four vessels target pelagic species such as mackerel and can catch tonnes of fish per day, but as they are operating more than twelve miles out to sea they are beyond the jurisdiction of UK authorities. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Cop26 addresses issues facing the oceans: The United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as Cop26, took place in Glasgow this month. The event saw over twenty-five thousand delegates from over 200 countries attend over the two weeks of the conference. November 5th was Ocean Action Day at the conference and the UK government made a number of announcements. These included contributing £6 million to ProBlue, a World Bank initiative to increase the sustainability of seas and oceans, and increasing the amount of money put towards saving the world’s coral reefs to £6 million. The UK also reiterated its commitment to the 30by30 project which aims to have thirty per cent of the world’s seas and ocean protected by 2030. Read more here. There were protests at the event with activists from Ocean Rebellion, and offshoot of Extinction Rebellion dressing up as bloodied fish and commercial fishermen as they demonstrated outside of Pacific Quay in Glasgow. Laura Baldwin, a former Olympic sailor and spokesperson for Ocean Rebellion said: “What we want is a ban to bottom trawling, a stop to industrial fishing.” The group also criticised the Marine Stewardship Council which they said offered “continued support” to damaging commercial fishing. Read more by clicking here. The organisers of Cop26 were also criticised for the choice of food served at the event. The menu for delegates included farmed salmon which was provided by a company that had received two enforcement notices from the Scottish government for failure to control parasites. It was also pointed out that the open water fish farms used to raise salmon in Scotland have been heavily criticised by environmental campaigners due to the levels of pollution they produce and the impact they have on the wider marine environment. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Kiribati to allow fishing in one of world’s largest marine reserves: The nation of Kiribati in the central Pacific Ocean is set to allow commercial fishing to resume in what was previously one of the world’s largest marine protected areas. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area covers over 150,000 square miles (240,000 sq km) and is controlled by Kiribati, a sovereign nation of 120,000 people which became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979. Since 2015 the Phoenix Islands Protected Area has been closed off to commercial fishing, but the Kiribati government said that the economic cost of missing out of issuing fishing licences was too great and commercial fishing would once again be allowed within the area. Anote Tong, the former president of Kiribati who was responsible for creating the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, told the Guardian: “I’m very, very disappointed … I never expected that this would happen. … It had to be something that would remain regardless of any political changes.” It was also noted that the decision had not been formally ratified by the government of Kiribati and commercial fishing would not take place in the area until next year at the earliest. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Archaeologists discover ancient fishing equipment: Archaeologists in Israel have found fishing equipment dating back 12,000 years, shedding new light on the way fishing was carried out in ancient times. The archaeologists, who were from a research institute in Germany, found hooks made out of bone and grooved stones which they believe were used as fishing weights in the Huleh Valley in northern Israel. Researchers who made the discovery said that the hooks were remarkably similar to modern-day fishing hooks and featured intricate designs and barbs to stop fish from escaping from the hooks. Different styles and sizes of hooks were found, along with plant fibres which may have been used as a form of artificial lure. The researchers also found fish bones that proved that both small fish and giant carp over two metres in length had been caught. Ancient fishing is notoriously difficult to study as much of the equipment was plant and wood-based and is therefore lost as it degrades over time, but this discovery may prove that fishing in ancient times was much more advanced than previously believed. Click here to read more on this story.

Further developments in French/British post-Brexit fishing dispute: Last month France detained a British trawler as the dispute over fishing rights between Britain and France continued to escalate. The French fishing industry and the government had been infuriated by the low number of licences issued to French vessels to fish in UK waters and claimed that they had been “deceived” by the Brexit deal. This caused the French fishing industry to threaten to take action against the UK, including blocking imports bound for Britain and preventing British boats from unloading catches in France. As the dispute continued a British trawler, the Cornelis Gert Jan was impounded at the French port of Le Havre over alleged fishing irregularities. However, at the start of this month, a French court ruled that the vessel was free to leave and cancelled a £125,000 bond which was meant to be paid to ensure that the Cornelis Gert Jan’s captain would return to France next year to answer charges over the alleged illegal fishing. The Daily Mail reported that the judge who presided over the case agreed that the vessel had been caught up in the political game between Britain and France and no wrongdoing had been committed, meaning it could leave immediately. Read more on this story by clicking here. Later in the month talks between Britain and France remained deadlocked, leading to claims that French fishermen (or “fishers” as the Guardian refers to them) would take matters into their own hands by blocking imports from reaching the UK. The Guardian reported that freight reaching the UK by sea and road would be blocked, with Olivier Leprêtre, the president of a French fishermen’s organisation, saying “We are aiming more to target exports because we don’t want to harm the French economy,” he said. “We want to affect the UK’s economy. We will do this properly – and we will do it.” France continues to claim that around 150 French vessels have wrongly been denied fishing permits to operate in UK waters, while the British government insists it has the right to limit the number of fishing permits it hands out. Click here to read more.

Heathrow airport conveyor belts filled with frozen fish: Passengers at Heathrow airport were left confused when the conveyor belt which was supposed to bring their luggage instead transported boxes of frozen fish. Passengers at the airport’s Terminal 5 had arrived on a flight from Cyprus and were met with boxes of frozen bass and bream instead of their luggage as they waited at the conveyor belts. Passengers were given a claim form and told that they would be reunited with their luggage in a few days, and the airport offered little explanation for the incident, other than stating they were aware that “something fishy was going on.” Read more here.

Extent of life in River Thames revealed by study: The range of aquatic life in the river Thames has been revealed by a study, 64 years after the river was declared “biologically dead”. The study was carried out by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and showed that seals, eels, seahorses, shrimp, fish and shark species such as tope, smooth-hound and spurdog were all now present in the Thames, along with bird species such as redshanks and avocets. The aim of the study was to see how the Thames had changed in the six decades between the Natural History Museum declared the river biologically dead in 1957 and today, with the ZSL report stating that “reductions in pressures” and “improvements in key species and habitats” resulted in aquatic life returning to the Thames. However, there were threats to the river. These included invasive non-native species such as zebra mussels and Chinese mitten crabs becoming more common, worrying levels of plastic pollution in the river, and climate change causing the Thames water levels to rise and heat up. Click here to read more on this story.