October 2021 – News

France and UK fishing row intensifies: Brexit-related fishing disputes between the UK and France have made the news this week as the situation continues to escalate. At the start of the month a French minister reiterated France’s threat to cut off the electricity supply to Jersey as a row over fishing continued. Jersey relies on a network of undersea cables which come from France for ninety-five per cent of its electricity and France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune warned that this supply could be switched off if Jersey did not let more French vessels fish in its waters. Jersey has only approved twelve of the forty-seven applications from small French boats to fish in the island’s waters, infuriating the French fishing industry. Read more on this story on the Daily Mail website by clicking here. A few days later that France was threatening to block exports reaching the UK during the run-up to Christmas over fishing rights. Sky News said that French fishermen believe that they had been “deceived” by the Brexit fishing deal and were calling on the EU Commission to take “retaliatory measures” against Britain. Only thirty-one of a potential seventy vessels from the region have been granted the right to fish in British water, a move which was described as “an unacceptable decision” by the French fishermen. Brexit Minister Lord David Frost responded by saying: “We have been extremely generous and the French, focusing in on a small category of boats and claiming we have behaved unreasonably, I think is not really a fair reflection of the efforts we have made.” Read more on this story here. Later in the month Further threats from France were made with a number of British newspapers stating that the French could adopt a “go-slow strategy” on imports and shipments heading to Britain over the Christmas period if the UK did not accept their demands. The Daily Mail stated that could implement additional physical checks on goods heading into the UK which would cause major delays and tailbacks. The checks would be used as a way of hitting back at the UK over the fishing dispute and would only be removed when the UK government accepted France’s demands. Read more here. At the end of the month the dispute escalated further when a British trawler was detained by France off the coast of Le Havre. The Cornelis Gert Jan which is owned by the Scottish company MacDuff Shellfish was detained in a French port when it was fishing for shellfish. The BBC quoted the French authorities as saying that the vessel was “not at liberty to leave” while investigations into the activities of the vessel were carried out and France’s maritime minister Annick Girardin claimed that the vessel had been fishing in the Bay of Seine without the correct licences. The crew has remained on the vessel and were described as being in “good spirits” while MacDuff Shellfish said that the vessel was “legally fishing for scallop in French waters” and it had been caught up in the wider dispute between the two nations. Read more on this story here.

Firth of Clyde recovers from overfishing with new species: An article in the Guardian this month examined the attempts to recover fish stocks in the Firth of Clyde. Drawing on research carried out by scientists and published in the academic journal Current Biology, the Guardian reported that the Firth of Clyde has shown signs of recovery since fishing pressure has been reduced. However, herring, which were once the main species across the area have not returned. Instead, it is now sprat which is the most common species found there. It is believed that reducing fishing has allowed the sprat stocks to recover to the extent that they have crowded out herring and prevented their recovery. The authors of the study noted that herring requires an undisturbed seabed to spawn, whereas sprat do not. Dr Joshua Lawrence, the lead scientist in the study, was quoted in the Guardian as saying: “We’ve seen no recovery in the herring stock, as one would normally hope for following a reduction in fishing pressure. Instead, we have seen a huge increase in the biomass of sprat in the area.” The research shows that overfishing can cause long-term changes to the marine ecosystem and that even when overfishing is stopped there is no guarantee that the marine environment will return to its previous state. Click here to read more on this story.

Plant-based alternative ‘fake fish’ is set to see huge sales rise: Fake fish products are set to see significant sales increases in the coming years as a growing number of companies bring their products to the market. Fillet-o-fish style burgers, fish cakes, prawns and salmon products made from jackfruit, peas and seaweed are likely to be the first available to UK consumers with companies such as Vegan Zeastar already supplying their products to the UK market. The Dutch company makes plant-based prawn and squid products which are available to UK consumers through the online supermarket Ocado, and their tapioca-based salmon, which is called Zalmon, will be launched next year. Nestle are also making a pea and seaweed-based shrimp product called Vrimp which will also be available next year. Both companies claim their products will be extremely close in both taste and texture to the real seafood there are replicating. US companies Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have seen significant growth with their plant-based meat products, and the growing awareness of declining fish stocks, the damage caused by commercial fishing and carbon emissions mean companies producing fake fish could see similar growth. Read more on this article on the Guardian website by clicking here.

Calls to ban ultra-effective fly shooting method from British waters: British actor Simon Pegg has written an article for the Independent in which he examines the highly controversial fly shooting method of commercial fishing. This method involves dragging heavy nets around an entire shoal of fish, meaning that huge numbers of fish can be caught in a very short time. In the article, Pegg writes that he accompanied Greenpeace on their vessel Sea Beaver to monitor such vessels. They attempted to collect evidence of fly shooter vessels operating, something they later achieved by filming one of the vessels with a drone. Pegg states that fishermen oppose being filmed as “industrial fishing companies want to keep this destructive new technique out of the public eye.” Pegg goes on to say that Greenpeace, along with small scale fishermen, are calling on the government to ban both fly shooters and industrial factory trawlers from the English Channel, and while this may be an “unlikely alliance” they both want the same outcome of healthy seas. Read the full article on the Independent website here.

Companies threaten to stop buying Atlantic mackerel until overfishing is stopped: Major companies including Young’s Seafood, Tesco, Co-op, Aldi, Princes, Marks & Spencer and Asda have said that they will stop buying mackerel caught in the north east Atlantic until catch levels are reduced. Mackerel is one of the most commercially important species to European fishermen, but countries have been unable to agree on sustainable quotas for more than ten years. The Guardian report that mackerel catches have exceeded the limits set by scientists by 4.8 million tons since 2015. Mackerel lost its Marine Stewardship Council sustainable status in 2019, and catches of other pelagic species such as blue whiting and herring have also been higher than scientific advice recommends. The companies, which collectively have billions of pounds of buying power, have said that all mackerel fishing nations must come together to agree on sustainable quotas for the species. If this is not done the companies have said that they will source new species of fish from other sustainable fisheries elsewhere in the world. Read the full story on the Guardian website by clicking here.

Mystery over mass sea creature deaths on Teesside beaches: Huge numbers of small sea creatures have been found washed up dead on beaches across Teesside and surrounding areas, prompting an urgent investigation to discover the cause. The creatures, mostly crabs and lobsters, were discovered by residents over the last few weeks, with some people claiming that on some beaches dead and dying creatures were “waist-high.” Redcar MP Jacob Young raised the issue in the House of Commons and government scientists from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said that they were treating the issues with the highest urgency, although they said there was “no answer” to what has caused the die-off until they had the results of the test they were carrying out. Click here to read more on this story.

Tuna spotted in UK waters are not worth millions of pounds: A number of UK media outlets have reported on bluefin tuna being seen in British waters – and continued to perpetuate the myth that such fish are worth millions of pounds. Peter Nason, a volunteer with St Ives National Coastwatch Institution saw a group of tuna off the coast of Cornwall and captured images of the fish jumping out of the water. This was then picked up by the media, with outlets such as the Daily Mirror, LadBible and the Daily Star adding the erroneous information that such tuna are worth millions of pounds. The claim is often made when stories on tuna are featured in the media and comes from a misunderstanding of the first tuna auction of the new year in Japan. Traditionally carried out at the world-famous Tsukiji fish market this auction sees wealthy Japanese businessmen compete in an auction for the honour and prestige of buying the first tuna of the year. Prices can reach over one million pounds, but this is an artificially inflated price that is not indicative of true tuna prices. The real market rate of a large bluefin tuna in prime condition can reach over ten thousand pounds, but not the millions UK media outlets continue to claim. Read more on this story here.