October 2017 – News

EU Countries “Doing Little or Nothing About Illegal Fishing”: An environmental legal group has released a damning report that the European Union is doing very little about illegal fishing – put the continent’s fish stocks in real danger. Under its own rules EU countries are required to impose sanctions and punishments on fishermen and fishing companies who break the rules and fish illegally. However, the environmental campaigning law group ClientEarth has claimed that major fishing nations such as the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK have failed to implement the regulations to impose sanctions and punishments properly, and Ireland has not even developed a penalty point system for those breaking the rules – something it is required to do by EU law. A lawyer for ClientEarth stated: “The fishing industry would have us believe they are heavily inspected and sanctioned, but our research shows that is just not the case … we need to ensure fisheries laws are properly enforced so that Europe’s waters are not overfished and we have a healthy marine environment.” Read more by clicking here.

Portuguese Man-of-War Continues to Hit UK Beaches: The deadly jellyfish-like creature known as the Portuguese Man-of-War has continued to wash up in high numbers on British beaches, with swimmers off the south coast being warned to cover up to protect themselves from the potentially fatal sting of this species. Last month we reported that a number of beaches across Cornwall had been closed due to the presences of this creature, with the species also washing up in high numbers on Welsh beaches. Portuguese Man-of-War have continued to be sighted across beaches in Wales and southern England in large numbers, with over 2000 reported since early September. The Portuguese Man-of-War resembles a partially deflated purple balloon and has tentacles which can be up to fifty metres long. These tentacles can deliver an extremely painful sting which can be fatal in rare cases. Because of the threat posed by this creature the Marine Conservation Society has advised swimmers to wear full body wetsuits to avoid contact with this species and avoid its sting, and reminded people that the tentacles of the Portuguese Man-of-War retain their stinging ability long after the creature has died, meaning that Portuguese Man-of-War which are washed up on the beach should never be touched or moved. Read more here.

Prince Charles Welcomes “Supreme Wake-up Call” Over Ocean Damage: Prince Charles has welcomed that attention that the world’s seas and oceans are finally receiving after decades of inaction. He stated his concern that little had been done despite his decades of campaigning on environmental matters, but said that the attention that microplastic pollution had received had acted as a “supreme wake-up call” for the wider damage that had been done to the marine environment. The Prince had been speaking at the Our Ocean conference in Malta where there were also pledges from the European Union to spend half a billion euros on protecting the seas and oceans of Europe, and initiatives launched to combat illegal fishing and plastic pollution, and develop a protected marine area in the Mediterranean. Click here to read more on this story.

Plastic Pollution Found in 60% of Mussels Taken From Kent Beaches: A study for the BBC carried out by scientists from King’s College London has found that a large proportion of mussels on Kent beaches are contaminated with microplastic pollution. The mussels were collected from areas such as Ramsgate and Herne Bay, and an average of 60% contained microplastic pollution – plasitic fragments less than a millimetre across which have been released when larger items such as plastic bottles and carrier bags break down in the ocean. Although the mussels were not intended for human consumption there are concerns that microplastics could end up in the human food chain if wild fish eat the mussels and the fish are then caught. The effect of microplastics on the marine environment is still unknown, but the issue has received a huge amount of media attention in recent years. A number of multi-national companies have announced that they are phasing out the use of microplastics in their products and other measures such as the 5p charge on plastic carrier bags has been introduced to try and reduced the amount of single use plastics which are thrown away every year. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Marine Conservation Society Lists the Fish Species You Shouldn’t Eat: With 90% of the world’s seas and oceans classes either fully exploited or over exploited the Marine Conservation Society has compiled a list of the five fish species it is best to avoid eating. Almost all fish stocks can recover if they are given a break from overfishing and by avoiding fish from badly managed fisheries or damaging fish farms consumers can incentivise change. The five fish species listed are grey mullet (due to their slow growth rate and late maturity), Mediterranean swordfish (due to tuna bycatch in the fishery, wild seabass (due to late maturity, slow growth and vulnerable spawning patterns), European eel (due to critically endangered status) and wild Atlantic halibut (due to overfishing and endangered status. Click here to read the full article on the MCS website.

Octopus Behaviour Baffles Scientists: Around twenty curled octopuses emerged from the sea and began walking along a Welsh beach in an incident which has left scientists and marine conservationists puzzled. Octopus are usually found well out to sea, although they can sometimes be found crawling around rockpools looking for prey. However, it is unknown for the species to emerge from the sea and effectively beach themselves by crawling inland along a sandy beach. A number of videos have shown the octopuses carrying out this behaviour, with one video taken on a beach at Ceredigion in Wales showing at least twenty octopuses beaching themselves. Anyone finding beached octopuses is advised to pick them up and drop them back into a deeper part of the sea. Read more here.

New ‘Seabin’ Invention Aims to Rid Oceans of Rubbish: A floating bin which was developed by two Australian surfers has been put to work in Portsmouth Harbour, and there are hopes that the invention could soon be used to clean up a much larger area of the sea. The Seabin was developed by two Australian surfers, Peter Ceglinski and Andrew Turton, who spent four years developing the idea and successfully raised over $250,000 on crowdfunding site Indiegogo to fund their invention. The Seabin floats on the surface of the water and sucks in rubbish and waste. Each Seabin can hold around 12kg of rubbish before it needs to be emptied, and while Seabins cannot be used in the open ocean it is hoped that they will be able to be used to clean up harbours, marinas, estuaries and other sheltered areas. Read more about the Seabin by clicking here.

95% of World’s Plastic Pollution May Come from Just Ten Rivers: Scientists from a Germany research institute have calculated that as much as 95% of the world’s plastic marine pollution could come from just ten rivers. This is because of mismanagement of plastic waste much further inland which then collects in the rivers and eventually washes into the sea. Eight of the ten rivers are in Asia and two in Africa, with the scientists from Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig, Germany saying that reducing the plastic pollution from these rivers could lead to a huge improvement in the amount of plastic pollution across the world. It is estimated that the Ganges River in India alone dumps over half a billion kilograms of plastic into the Bay of Bengal every year. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Gove Confirms Government Looking at Alternatives to the CFP: Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary and a prominent figure in the campaign to leave the EU, has confirmed that the government is looking at alternatives to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy for when the UK leaves the EU. The current quota system, which sees fishermen given an amount of each species to catch and then be forced to discard anything they catch over this amount, could be scrapped and replaced with a days at sea model. The system would also feature temporary closures and other features to ensure that fish stocks are protected. Fishing has received a high level of attention in the Brexit debate, and senior figures in the Fishing for Leave campaign have stated that simply replicated the EU’s controversial and wasteful Common Fisheries Policy would be “madness.” Read more here – https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/politics/1335250/fishing-for-leave-brexit-plan-under-consideration-by-defra/ In related news Michael Gove also said that the UK should leave the Common Fisheries Policy when the country leaves the EU in 2019, and not at the end of a two year transitional deal in 2019. Staying in the CFP between 2019 and 2021 would mean that UK fishermen would still have to comply with all of the rules and regulations of the CFP for that period, but would have no say on the quotas or other regulations they would have to abide by. Read more on this by clicking here.

High Street Companies to Ditch Single Use Plastics: An increasing number of high street companies are pledging to phase single use plastics to cut down on ocean pollution. Pret A Manger, the international sandwich chain which is headquartered in the UK, is the latest to announce that it will reduce plastic usage by offering free filtered water at its stores and using refillable glass bottles instead of disposable plastic containers. Pret A Manger follows pubs Wetherspoons and Oakman Inns and restaurant chain MEATliquor which have all pledged to stop supplying disposable plastic straws, while companies ranging from Selfridges, Sky and the Zoological Society of London (as well as many others) have also stated that they aims to significantly reduce their use of single use plastics over the coming years. Disposable and single use plastics are a major cause of marine pollution, and it appears that the impact plastic has on the marine environment is finally being taken seriously by UK retailers. Click here to read more.

Research Points to Plastic Pollution Problem on Scottish Beaches: In related news research carried out by environmental charity Fidra and the Marine Conservation Society has found high levels of plastic pollution on a number of Scottish beaches, with worrying claims that some of the nation’s most popular beaches could soon be made up of as much plastic as sand. Volunteers collected plastic from a range of locations across Scotland’s coastline, with nurdles – plastic pellets which are the raw material many plastic products are made from – being found to be a major problem. In one small stretch of the Firth of Forth coastline around half a million nurdles were collected. The problem is not confined to Scotland, with a recent survey estimating that there were significant numbers of nurdles on three quarters of the UK’s beaches. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Images Show Caribbean Sea Choked With Plastic Pollution: A shocking photograph of an area of the Caribbean Sea covered with discarded waste plastic made headlines this month. The image shows a diver preparing to enter the sea from a boat, with the surface of the sea being almost entirely covered in plastic. A close up photograph shows that plastic knives and forks, containers, drainpipes and other unidentified pieces of plastic make some of the waste. The image was widely shared on social media, with many mainstream media outlets also running stories on it. Environmental campaign groups, such as the Blue Planet Society, stated that the image was one of the worst examples of plastic pollution that they had seen. See the image by clicking here.

UKIP MEP Says French Fishermen Should Pay to Access to UK Waters: A senior UKIP MEP has said that French fishermen should pay to access UK waters once the Brexit process is complete. Mike Hookem, the Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber region, has said that the government should “protect the UK’s fisheries at all costs” during the Brexit negotiations and that EU vessels should be charged for access to British waters with all of their catch landed at British ports. Mr Hookem said that the EU was “ fully intent on keeping their strangle hold on UK fisheries.” And that the UK should pull out of the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy straight after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, and not after the two year transition period which follows that. Read the full story here.

Angler Almost Dies After Swallowing Dover Sole: An Angler came very close to losing their life in a bizarre incident which saw a Dover sole flatfish become wedged in his throat. The angler, who was initially unidentified but later named as 28-year-old Sam Quilliam from Hampshire, was fishing with two friends at Boscombe Pier in Bournemouth. He caught the 14cm long flatfish and was about to return it to the sea when he decided to give the fish a kiss. He then said that the fish jumped out of his hand “like a bar of soap” and “swam straight down my throat.” The fish blocked his windpipe causing him to pass out and stop breathing for three minutes. As the gills of the fish acted like a barb his friends were unable to remove it, and instead had to phone 999 and perform CPR until paramedics arrived. He was then taken into an ambulance where the paramedics were eventually able to remove the fish and revive Mr Quilliam, who was then taken to hospital. Sam Quilliam has since made a full recovery and said that the incident will not put him off fishing in future. He has also met with and thanked the paramedics who saved his life. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Farmed Scottish Salmon May Have Sea Lice at Twenty Times Acceptable Limit: The issue of Scottish salmon farms battling against infestations of sea lice has been in the news a lot recently. Chemical treatments to rid salmon of lice are becoming increasingly ineffective and despite the Scottish fish farming industry spending over £30 million to combat sea lice problem the number of sites infected by sea lice has continued to grow. In 2014 28% sites were affected, but this had risen to 49% in 2015. Now an article in the Independent says that major UK supermarkets are continuing to stock salmon from affected farms, with some fish potentially having twenty times the acceptable amount of parasites on them. As fish are either treated with pesticides or discarded when they are found with parasites there is no threat to people’s health, but there are calls for the Scottish fish farming industry to accept the scale of the problem they face with sea lice and to be more open with the environmental issues which fish farms cause. Click here to read the full article in the Independent.

Long-term Study Produces Bleak Outlook for the Health of the World’s Oceans: An eight-year study has concluded that ocean acidification, when taken along with the other issues facing the oceans, will prove deadly to marine life. The study was carried out by a German research group and also had the backing of the German government and included the findings of over 250 scientists. Ocean acidification is the process of the decreasing pH levels of the world’s seas and oceans caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide. If the oceans continue to acidify then there will be major consequences for many species and ecosystems: shellfish will be unable to form shells if the acidity levels are too high, and species such as cod may have their growth significantly inhibited. The study concluded that when this is combined with issues such as high levels of plastic pollution, overfishing, coral bleaching and human pollution creating dead zones in the ocean then the world’s seas and oceans will become increasingly hostile to marine life. Worryingly, the researchers found that if the Paris Agreement’s aim to limit worldwide global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius is achieved then this may not be enough to stop ocean acidification. Read more by clicking here.

More Portuguese Man-O’-War Jellyfish Wash Up On UK Beaches: The late summer and early autumn has seen a large number of Portuguese Man-O’-War wash up on beaches across the southern parts of England, Ireland and Wales. The creatures (which are technically not jellyfish but a closely related species) have very long tentacles which carry a potent – and potentially fatal – sting. Usually found in the warmer waters of the Atlantic they appear to becoming more common in British and Irish waters. Storm Ophelia, which saw winds of over 100mph batter the British Isles appears to have brought a large number of Portuguese Man-O’-War onto beaches across the UK, with thirty-one separate sightings across the coast of Wales and many others reported across Hampshire, Dorset and Devon. Even when washed up the Portuguese Man-O’-War is still dangerous as its tentacles retain their sting for a long time after the creature has died, and Portuguese Man-O’-War which are found washed up should never be touched or moved. Read more here.

Citizen Science Project Launched into the “Love Life of the Lugworm”: The Marine Conservation Society is aiming to find out more about how lugworms reproduce with the help of the public. Lugworms are a vital source of food for many fish and seabird species, and of course one of the most popular baits for anglers. However, the scientific community known relatively little about how lugworms reproduce and what factors are important for spawning to happen. The study, which is being led by the University of Portsmouth, aims to get people to record where lugworms have released sperm to fertilise the eggs of female lugworm across twelve different sites across the UK. It is hoped that the information gathered will allow a greater understanding of the spawning patterns of this important species to be built up. Read more by clicking here.

British Diver Swims Miles to Safety After Encounter With Tiger Shark: A British diver who had to swim four and a half miles back to land after losing contact with the boat he was swimming and was followed by a tiger shark for part of the way. John Craig, 34, was spear-fishing off the coast of Australia when he was cut adrift from his boat after it developed mechanical issues. He was forced to swim back to land and during the swim Mr Craig, an experienced diver who is originally from Sunderland but now living in Australia, said he was followed by a tiger shark. The shark was four metres long and followed him for around fifteen minutes. Mr Craig described the shark as being “curious” and it did not attack him, although he told the BBC that he thought the shark was “trying to work out what I was and whether I could be on the menu.” Mr Craig eventually made it back to land where he made contact with the search and rescue parties who were looking for him. Read more on the BBC website by clicking here.

UK Could “Follow EU Fishing Rules With No Voice at the Table”: Brexit and its impact on Britain’s fisheries is an ongoing topic, and will be for some time to come yet. While the UK is set to leave the European Union in 2019 a two year transition period is likely to take place, where the UK will still be signed up to most, if not all, of the EU’s rules and regulations. This could mean that British fishermen could still have to follow the quotas, catch limits and other regulations which the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy lays out, but as the UK will not be a member of the EU during this time it will have no say in shaping the rules which British fishermen must follow. Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, a former Cabinet Minister, said that “We won’t have a voice at the table but we will have to abide by all of the Common Fisheries rules.” Many within the fishing industry are campaigning for the UK to leave the Common Fisheries Policy at the same time as it leaves the EU. Click here to read more.

Shark Like Shape Spotted Off Coast of Hastings Turns Out To Be a Seal: A ’shark’ was spotted off the coast of Hastings this month, with many keen to suggest that it could be a basking shark, porbeagle or even a great white. Sean Pepper, 34, spotted what he believed was a shark and took a video of the creature. The Daily Mail initially ran a story speculating about which species of shark it could be. However, it was since emerged that the footage actually shows a seal sleeping with its head sticking out of the water, and the text of the Daily Mail article has changed to reflect this. See the images and video of the ‘shark’ by clicking here.