October 2016 – News

Diver’s Great White Shark Escape: A scuba diver escaped unharmed after a great white shark got inside the cage he was viewing the shark from. The incident happened off Guadalupe Island (around 150 miles off the west coast of Mexico) and shows the shark swim towards the cage to eat a piece of tuna which was being used to attract sharks closer to the cage. The shark then continues onwards and crashes into the side of the submerged viewing cage, dislodging at least one of the metal bars and ending up inside of the cage. The shark thrashes around inside of the cage for around twenty-five seconds while several men look on. The only thing they are able to do is open the entry hatch on the top of the cage and the shark manages to force its way outside of the hatch and swim away, bleeding from its gills. There is then a period of confusion while the men discuss what has happened and whether or not anyone way inside of the cage. Eventually the diver (who was later identified as Chan Ming, a Chinese tourist from Shanghai) emerges from the cage. Chan Ming said that he did not attach any blame to the company who arranged the diving experience, calling them “professional” and “heroes.” He also said that he returned to the water the “very next day.” In a follow up video it is stated that despite the injuries the shark appeared to sustain it has been spotted several times in the same area (which is a marine reserve) and appears to have suffered no lasting damage from the incident. The video has now been viewed almost twenty million times on YouTube and can be viewed by clicking here.

Fishing at the 2020 Olympics?: The international governing body of fishing has applied for fishing to be a sport at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The Rome-based Confederation Internationale de la Peche Sportive represents fifty million anglers in seventy countries and says that the popularity of fishing means that it would add to the Olympic Games and the “ancient and fair completion system” used in fishing make it well suited to the Olympics. All fish caught at an Olympic event would be returned to unharmed. Despite concerns that fishing would be too boring to be a televised Olympic sport former athlete and keen angler Dean Macey came out in favour of fishing gaining Olympic status. Macy, who competed in the decathlon in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and has presented fishing-based TV shows on the Discovery Channel, told the Daily Mirror “millions of people across the world go fishing, why shouldn’t it form part of the planet’s biggest sporting event?” Angling has actually featured at an Olympic Games before, being an exhibition event at the 1900 games in Paris, although there was no recorded winner. Read more on this story here.

Campaign to Boycott Wild Caught Bass: Concern over stock levels has led to the Marine Stewardship Council to begin a campaign to boycott wild caught bass. It is well known that Europe’s bass stocks have declined to dangerously low levels, and there is growing frustration that governments across Europe are not taking decisive action to save this species. The campaign aims to encourage people to eat farmed bass, or an alternative species such as mackerel or hake. They also want a ban on commercial fishing for bass for the first six months of 2017, and a total ban on all fishing for bass in the species breeding ground during the breeding season. Read more here.

No Concern Over Dead Fish: Thousands of small fish have been found washed up dead across Welsh beaches in the last few months, with concerned members of the public reporting the dead fish to the authorities. However, Natural Resources Wales – an organisation sponsored by the Welsh government – have stated that there is no cause for concern and the dead fish are simply “nature at work.” It is believed that the fish have been attempting to escape from larger predatory fish such as mackerel or bass and ended up beaching themselves in their attempts to escape. While seeing thousands of dead fish may indicate pollution or be caused by illegal fishing it appears in this case that it is simply a natural phenomenon. Read more on the BBC website by clicking here.

Puffins Harmed by Butterfish: Lack of suitable fish is causing major issues for puffin colonies on the eastern coast of the US, a problem that is also be seen in Europe. Puffins have been reintroduced to Egg Rock, a tiny island off the coast of Massachusetts which has become a bird sanctuary. While puffins had been thriving at Egg Rock, recent years have seen numbers decline due to a large proportion of chicks failing to reach adulthood, and those that do being weak and underweight. Analysis of the puffin’s diets has shown that instead of feeding on white hake and herring the adult puffins have been catching butterfish and feeding this species to their young. Butterfish are a different shape and much tougher than the fish the young puffins are adapted to feeding on, meaning that young puffins struggle to digest them. Scientists believe that the lack of herring and white hake may be down to climate change, with warming seas seeing the white hake and herring moving northwards. While the story in the Guardian (which can be read here) focuses on puffin colonies in the USA, a similar issue can be seen in Britain. Sandeel numbers are declining (mostly due to the high numbers being caught to be processed into fishmeal) forcing puffins to catch different species to their young – species which the young puffins cannot eat or digest.

Cromer Pier Fishing Ban?: Fishing could be banned from popular Norfolk fishing mark Cromer Pier due to hooks and weights left by anglers. Discarded line and snagged fishing weights have been reportedly found around the lifeboat station area, and windows of the boat house have been cracked by fishing weights. With angling becoming more popular on the pier there are concerns over safety and the pier’s owner North Norfolk District Council have already banned fishing from parts of the pier and could ban fishing entirely. No decision has yet been taken and angers who regularly fish from their pier maintain that it is a small number of anglers who cause problems. Read the full story here.

Do Cod Have Regional Dialects?: Research was released this month which showed that fish species – especially cod – may use sound to communicate with each other much more than previously realised. While fish do not have vocal chords they can vibrate their swim bladder to make grunting and rumbling noises and may use these sounds to find other fish in a shoal or warn each other of approaching danger. Steve Simpson, a marine scientist at the University of Exeter, carried out the research by dragging hydrophones through the sea to capture the sounds of the marine environment. He found that cod may actually have something similar to regional dialects, with fish from one area creating a different type of sound to fish from other areas. However, the increasing amount of noise which is being created in the seas around Britain and the wider world may have a negative impact on cod and other species. Rising levels of marine traffic, oil and gas exploration, laying of underwater pipeline and the powerful sonar used by military vessels all create sounds which can drown out the natural communication between fish. Scientists have yet to fully understand how fish use sound to communicate and more research is needed into this area. Read the full article on the BBC website here.

Microplastic Pollution at 6000ft: Scientists have discovered that marine creatures living at depths of 6000ft (1820m) have ingested microplastic pollution. While the presence of damaging microplastics has been receiving increasing levels of attention this is the first time that microplastics have been found at these depths. Creatures such as hermit crabs, lobsters and sea cucumbers were found to have ingested microscopic particles of polyester, nylon and acrylic. The UK government – along with many others – is in the process of phasing in a ban on microbeads (tiny pieces of plastic which are used in cosmetic products) but other forms of plastic pollution continue to cause major environmental concern. Read more on this story here.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Expanding: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a gigantic collection of waste products which is trapped in the between Hawaii and California by tides and gyres – is much bigger than previously imagined. A specially adapted reconnaissance aircraft found that the main section of the garbage patch covered over 400,000 square miles, while the periphery of the patch covered another 1.3 million square miles. While much of the visible rubbish generates the most concern it is the microplastics which are produced when larger pieces of plastic break down that is thought to cause the most environmental harm. There are plans to use an experimental ocean-going V-shaped boom which is many kilometres in length to clean up the larger plastics, but it is almost impossible to remove microplastics from the ocean. Read the full article on the Guardian website by clicking here.

Irish Ban on Microbeads: The Irish government will follow others such as the UK and USA by banning microbeads. As the two stories above indicate micrplastic pollution is a major issue in the world’s oceans, and while there is still a huge amount of work to be done to reduce microplastic pollution it is encouraging to see more and more countries banning microbeads. Read more here.

Silver Eel Discoveries: The silver eel (also known as the European eel) has puzzled scientists for centuries. Silver eels are born in the sub-tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean and then begin an epic migration to Europe. Once there they enter estuaries and rivers and spend many years living in a freshwater environment before returning to the sea and living in saltwater for a number of years. At some point the fully grown eels will swim thousands of miles back to the warmer areas of the Atlantic where they will give birth and then die, with their offspring repeating the process. Many aspects of the silver eel’s life is a mystery, such as how they find their way thousands of miles across the Atlantic, and what triggers them to begin the journey. However, the results of a five-year study have been published in the journal Science Advances has shed light on some aspects of the silver eel’s life cycle. Hundreds of eels were tagged and tracked from five locations in Europe and it was found that only a small proportion of the eels arrived for what was previously thought to be the peak spawning season in the Spring, while many others arrived later in the year and waited until the following Spring before spawning. Furthermore many eels took a long an indirect route to the spawning grounds, rather than the shortest and most direct route. While the study has helped explain how the silver eels get across the Atlantic, the reasons for some eels taking an indirect route remain a mystery. Silver eels are classed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) with commercial exploitation of the eels at all stages of their life, along with blocks and barriers to migration heavily decreasing silver eel numbers in recent decades. Read the full BBC article here.

Healthy Fats in Salmon Halved: The amount of healthy omega-3 fats in salmon have halved in less than a decade due to changes in the way farmed salmon are fed. Farmed salmon were once fed a fish-based diet which led to high levels of omega-3 building up in the fish. However, concern over damage being done to stocks of small wild fish (such as sandeels) to feed farmed salmon has led to more plant-based feed being given to salmon in fish farms. This change in diet has led to the fall in omega-3 in farmed salmon from 3.5 grams per 130 gram portion in 2006 to 1.75 grams in 2015. The team who carried out the research stressed that salmon was still the best source of omega-3 (which helps fight heart disease and arthritis amongst other illnesses) and farmed salmon still had more omega-3 than wild salmon, as wild fish use up much of their fat reserves on long migrations. Read the full article in the Daily Mail here.

Submarine Almost Capsizes Fishing Boat: A small Russian fishing boat was almost capsized when a nuclear submarine surfaced right beside it. The fishing boat was working in the Russian section of the Sea of Japan when the 15,000 ton, 170 metre long Borei-class nuclear submarine surfaced right beside them. Despite almost being capsized by the waves created by the submarine one of the two men was able to film footage of the submarine as it made its way away from them on his mobile phone. Read more and see the video by clicking here.

Baltic Cod Quotas Slashed: Quotas of Baltic cod – a species close to commercial extinction – have been reduced, but still remain higher than scientists recommend. Conservationists and scientists had been hoping for a cut close to 90% as this was the level that ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) recommended, but the cut which was imposed by the European Union was just 56%. In a story which will be typical to anyone familiar with EU fishing policy the advice of scientists was rejected due to pressure from Denmark which believed that a 90% cut would leave its fishermen with too few fish to catch. The amount of cod caught will now be 5,000 to 6,000 tons, down from over 12,000 tons. If ICES advice had been followed less than 1,000 tons would have been caught each year. Read more here.

No Take Zone Shows Mixed Results: A no take zone off the coast of Scotland has shown mixed results after an investigation. The zone is located in Lamlash Bay in the Isle of Arran on Scotland’s west coast and all forms of fishing have been banned within the zone since 2008. An investigation saw a range of sea creatures being tagged and tracked and found that lobsters inside the one mile square zone have increased in size and number and are now more likely to carry eggs. However, commercially valuable brown crabs have decreased inside the zone, possibly as a result of the lobsters outcompeting them for food. The zone was set to try and reverse the alarming decline of fish stocks within the Firth of Clyde. Read more here.

Fish Farming Overtakes Wild Caught Fish: A report issued by the United Nations showed that – on a global basis – fish farming now produces more fish for human consumption than catching wild fish. In the early 1970s fish farming (also known as aquaculture) accounted for around 7% of fish for human consumption but the massive increase in captive fish production has seen this increase to over 50%. The report pointed out that it is Asian nations which have led the increase in aquaculture – China alone accounts for 60% of the world’s farmed fish and only four European nations are in the top twenty-five captive fish producing countries. With human demand for seafood increasing across the world aquaculture and fish farming is set to continue to expand. Read more by clicking here.

Royal Navy Criticised for Trawler Incident: The Royal Navy has been criticised for its “lack of transparency” following an incident which saw a trawler’s nets become snagged by a submarine. The Karen was fishing fifteen miles away from Ardglass, one of Northern Ireland’s biggest fishing ports in April 2015 when the trawler was pulled backwards through the sea when a Royal Navy submarine collided with its nets. The crew had to scramble to cut the nets and around £10,000 of damage was caused to the 60ft trawler. While the crew were unharmed the fishing vessel could easily have been capsized. They Royal Navy took five months to admit that it was at fault for the incident, and maintain that the crew of the submarine were not aware that they had caught the nets of a trawler. The Royal Navy also said that the incident happened because they believed that the Karen was a cargo vessel, meaning they did not give it the wide berth they should have done to avoid the nets. In 1990 the Scottish trawler Antares was sunk and the crew of four all lost their lives when HMS Trenchant, a Trafalgar-class nuclear powered submarine of the Royal Navy collided with its nets. Major changes were put in place to avoid a repeat of the incident, and the report into the incident with the Karen expressed concern that many of the lessons learned after the loss of the Antares were being lost. Read more here.

Huge Arctic MCZ Created: A gigantic marine conservation zone is to be created in the Ross Sea, located to the west of the Antarctic. The zone will cover over 1.1 million square kilometres of ocean – an area the same size as France and Spain combined. The creation of the zone is significant as it took five years of negotiations and has required the agreement of twenty-four different countries, plus the European Union and is the first time a major marine reserve has been designated in international waters. Although the zone will not reduce the total amount of fish which are taken from the Ross Sea every year it will mean that fish now have a large area in which they can spawn and the marine environment can regenerate without being disturbed by human activity or destroyed by commercial fishing. However, there is a major concession that the protection is only valid for thirty-five years. After this period the protection will lapse and have to be renegotiated. Read the Guardian article on this story by clicking here.

Fin Whale On Norfolk Coast: A 12 metre long fin whale washed up on the Norfolk coast at Holkham this month. Although rare in UK waters fin whales are present. They are one of the largest animals to ever live on planet earth and can grow up to 27 metres long and weigh over seventy tons. The local authorities requested that people stay away while arrangements were made to get a specialist contracting company in to remove the carcass. Initial indications are that the whale died after receiving a spinal injury after being struck by a ship. The stranding of this fin whale – a species designated as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature – comes after thirty large whales, mostly sperm whales, have been found washed up around the North Sea coastline of Europe so far this year, and four fin whales have washed up on beaches around the UK. Read more here.

Brexit ‘Will Benefit Scotland’s Fishing Industry’: While Scotland voted to remain in the EU in the June referendum, Scotland’s fishermen overwhelmingly believe that leaving the European Union, and with it the Common Fisheries Policy, will allow Scotland’s fisheries to thrive. In meetings in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh this month representatives of Scotland’s fishing industry explained that regaining control of the UK territorial waters would allow more effective management of fish stocks and fairer opportunities for fish catches. They also stated that fisheries should be put at the heart of the negotiations to leave the EU, and it would be “unforgivable” if fishing rights were traded away during the negotiations. Read more here.

Discarded Fishing Nets Recycled into Clothing: An Italian company is pioneering a new approach to recycling by transforming lost and discarded fishing nets into sports clothing. Discarded nets are a major problem in the world’s seas and oceans as they go on catching and killing fish and other marine animals, and due to modern manufacturing processes may take many years to break down. The company, which is called Aquafil, has developed a new technique which breaks the nets down to a molecular level and then reformulates them into a synthetic fabric know as Econyl. Major sports brands such as swimwear manufacturer Speedo and Californian surfing brand Outerknown already make garments with Econyl. Read more here.

EU Ban on Atlantic Bass Fishing?: The European Union has proposed a total ban on the commercial fishing of bass in the Atlantic, in an attempt to halt a collapse in stocks. Other species such as Celtic Sea cod and sole in the Irish Sea would also see major cuts to their quotas, although some species such as North Sea mackerel and Irish Sea haddock will see quotas increased. At this stage the ban on commercial fishing of bass is only proposed, and will not be confirmed until a meeting of EU ministers in December. It is not known how bass quotas elsewhere around the UK will be affected, but large reductions are likely as scientists believe that bass stocks throughout Europe are below safe biological limits. The impact on anglers is also unknown. The catch-and-release only status for rod and line caught bass in the first half of 2016, followed by one bass per day for the rest of the year was hugely controversial, and it has been mooted that anglers could be restricted to keeping ten bass per month in 2017. Read more on the Guardian website by clicking here.

Bass Restrictions Impact on Charter Boats: In a related story charter boat skippers complained this month that restrictions on bass fishing are seriously damaging their business. The Dorset Echo reported that the catch-and-release only policy which was in force from January to June of this year, followed by one bass per day from July to December had led to charter boat revenues reducing by a fifth in 2016. The charter skippers believe that the restrictions on rod and line anglers are unfair when commercial fishermen, who catch a much higher proportion of bass, do not have to put up with the same restrictions. The skippers were also unhappy that the measure had been imposed on them without any form of consultation on how it would impact on their business. The paper also reported that guest houses in the area had closed as a direct result of the decline in charter boat trips. Read the full article here.

Ireland Mussel Dredging Concerns: The impact that industrial mussel dredging has on the marine environment around Ireland was highlighted this month, with a fisherwoman who works out of Dublin Bay stating that the dredging was making the area smell like “rotting corpses.” Industrial dredging vessels have operate close to the shoreline of Dublin and the rest of Ireland, often to gather young mussels to populate farms. A spokesman for the Irish Wildlife Trust expressed concern that the dredging had become “uncontrolled” and said that the vessels were “literally scraping the bottom of the sea.” He also expressed concern that if nothing was done then Irish waters could end up full of jellyfish and little else. However, the Irish Supreme Court has recently ruled that mussels within six miles of the shoreline are “state assets” and protection will be brought in to conserve stocks, meaning that the industrial vessels will be banned from harvesting mussels close to the shore. Read more here.

Drone Caught Fish: A Russian angler caught a fish using a drone, rather than a rod and line – on his very first attempt. Semyon Konev from the central Russian region of Krasnoyarsk Krai filmed the catch on both his smartphone and with a camera on the drone itself. Drone fishing could be set to increase in popularity, but critics fear that this form of fishing is unsporting and too far removed from traditional rod and line angling. Read more and see the footage here.