September 2020 – News

Potential record breaking mako caught (and released) in Welsh waters: A mako shark which would have set a new British record has been caught and released off the coast of Wales. Rob Rennie, a charter boat skipper, caught the shark which was too big to bring on board his 32ft boat. He estimated the shark as being 11ft long and weighing 800lb to 1200lbs. This would have easily beaten the current British record of 500lb which was set in 1971. However, the archaic rules which govern British record catches mean the shark would have to be weighed on land, meaning the shark would have to be killed for the record to be claimed. Instead, Rob hopes to be awarded the record based on the measurements of the shark telling the Daily Mail: “In days gone by claiming a record meant killing the shark which we absolutely weren’t going to do. I am still hoping we can claim a record using a system based more on trusting the honesty of the skipper. I’m really pleased with it as a catch and the reaction from the fishing world has been unbelievable.” Read more and see pictures of the shark by clicking here.

Greenpeace attempt to stop North Sea trawling: Greenpeace dumped huge boulders into the North Sea in an attempt to prevent commercial fishing from taking place in protected areas. The charity has claimed that vessels are illegally fishing in the Dogger Bank by switching off their identification systems meaning they cannot be tracked in the area. The charity has therefore decided to drop granite boulders weighing up to three tons across the area and have stated that this will prevent trawlers from operating but poses no threat to marine life. Chris Thorne from Greenpeace said: “Our Government has utterly failed to protect the Dogger Bank and all our marine protected areas from destructive industrial fishing. How can you continue to allow trawlers to plough the seabed in a protected area designed specifically to protect the seabed? Allowing trawling is equivalent to allowing bulldozers to plough through a protected forest. This must stop.” However, critics have stated that the advanced seabed mapping which is available to trawlers means that they will easily be able to avoid the boulders and the move is more of a publicity stunt than a real attempt to stop trawlers. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Huge tuna washes up on Sussex coast: A 28 stone (392 lbs) bluefin tuna has been found dead in Chichester Harbour, the first time the species has been found in the area. The tuna, which did not have any signs of injury or damage present on its body, was winched on board the IFCA vessel Watchful. Tuna have been becoming more common in British waters, possibly as a result of warming seas. Tim Dapling, a conservation officer at the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority stated that the tuna may have come into the harbour to feed on mackerel and herring and then become disoriented as the tide went out and the water levels within the harbour became shallower. While tuna are a valuable species they are not worth £2.5 million a fish as media outlets such as the Daily Mail insist on claiming. This valuation comes from an auction which originated at Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan where rich businessmen attempt to outbid each other for the honour and prestige of buying the first tuna of the New Year. While the price of tuna can reach millions at this single auction it is not indicative of general tuna prices. Read more on this story (and the Daily Mail’s ridiculous claims) by clicking here.

Could UK become first country to ban shark fin trade after Brexit?: Over 100,000 people have signed a petition which will close a loophole which allows shark fins to be transported and sold in the UK. Despite the practice of finning sharks being banned in the European Union shark fins can be shipped to Britain and sold, with some restaurants in central London reportedly selling shark fin soup for up to £190 per pot. While only a handful of restaurants are openly selling the soup it is believed that many more covertly sell shark fin soup off-menu to customers who ask for it. Up until now the UK has been unable to ban the sale and transportation of shark fins as any ban would be require the agreement of all EU nations, but with the Brexit transition period ending in December it will be possible for the UK to ban the practice next year. It is believed that humans kill around 75 million sharks each year and so far Canada is the only G20 nation to fully ban the shark fin trade. MPs will also now debate this issue in parliament as the petition successfully reached the required 100,000 signatories. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Jellyfish could replace traditional fish species on menus: An Australian research team has claimed that jellyfish and other non-traditional species could soon be found on menus across the world to take the pressure off threatened species. The study, which was based on Australian species but can be applied worldwide, stated that humans wouldn’t eat large, endangered land dwelling species such as mountain gorillas or elephants, and so the same should apply to fish species. Instead, under exploited species such as jellyfish should be promoted to consumers as a sustainable choice. It was also noted that labelling regulations across the world should be improved so people can tell exactly what species they are eating. In the UK, for example fresh fish needs to be labelled with the scientific name and place of capture by law, but a legal loophole means that this does not apply to cooked fish. This allows businesses such as fish and chip shops to sell endangered shark species under the name of flake or rock meaning that consumers have no idea of the species they are eating. Click here to read more on this story.

Super-trawler returns to UK waters: A super-trawler which is capable of catching 250 tons of fish per day has once again returned to UK waters, this time off the coast of Northumberland. The Margiris is a Lithuanian-flagged, Dutch-owned vessel which is 142 metres long and displaces 9,500 tons making it the second largest trawler in the world. At the start of this month it moved into UK waters and was observed fishing for mid-water species such as mackerel off the coast of North Yorkshire and Northumberland near to the supposedly protected Farne Islands National Nature Reserve. The vessel (then named the Abel Tasman) was banned from fishing in Australian waters in 2013, but the UK is powerless to stop the Margiris as EU law (which the UK is still signed up to until the end of this year) allows such vessels to operate within twelve miles of EU member nations coastline. Further super-trawlers, the 126 metre long Afrika and the 142 metre long Willem Van Dee Zwan were also operating off the coast of Sussex this month. The increasing levels of super-trawler activity around the UK this have led to pressure on the government to ban these type of vessels from operating in British waters once the country has left the EU transition period in January 2021. Read more on this story by clicking here.

Whale washes up on Tyneside beach: A 12ft minke whale has been found dead on a South Shields beach. The whale was found at 4:30am on the 1st September on the town’s Sandhaven beach. The coastguard warned members of the public not to approach the dead whale and said that an autopsy would be carried on to ascertain the cause of death. It is not known if the death of the whale is linked to the increased levels of supertrawler activity off the regions coast. Read more here.

Escaped farmed salmon begin appearing in wild catches: Scottish anglers have began reporting catching salmon which escaped from a Argyll fish farm. Mowi – the fish farming company which owns the farm – confirmed that around 50,000 salmon escaped when Storm Ellen caused nets containing the salmon to become dislodged from their moorings. These salmon, which can be identified by their misshapen and damaged fins, have now mixed with wild fish stocks and began to turn up in angler’s catches across the region with Fisheries Management Scotland warning that they could also turn up further afield. If farmed salmon interbreed with wild salmon then the genetic integrity of the wild stocks can be compromised with unknown consequences for the viability of wild populations. Anglers catching farmed salmon have been requested to humanely kill the fish and take a sample of scales to be analysed by the authorities. Click here to read more on this story.

Supermarket fish kills marine mammals and rare seabirds: A report by the RSPB has found that fish such as cod, haddock and tuna which is sold in supermarkets is caught by commercial fishing methods which result in large numbers of non-target species being caught as bycatch. Nets used to catch cod and haddock in the Atlantic can also ensnare seals, porpoises and whales, while long-lines used to catch tuna in the Indian Ocean are responsible for the deaths of endangered albatross species. The RSBP said that they hoped the report would lead to supermarkets reviewing their supply chains while a spokesperson for Asda said “Asda wanted to investigate bycatch in the fishery because we know we need to do more to protect marine animals. This report now gives us a clear map of the improvements we need to make from our seafood suppliers.” Read more on this story by clicking here.

Warship and fishing boat almost collided because of ‘closed curtain’: A Royal Navy frigate came close to colliding with a Dutch fishing boat after an officer who was supposed to be on watch closed a blackout curtain so she could concentrate on other work. Lieutenant Rebecca Stanley’s failure to keep watch meant that the crew of the 133 metre long HMS Sutherland only had an “extremely limited picture” of where the vessel was going. This led to the Duke-class frigate coming within six hundred yards of the 36 metre long Jan Cornelis which was forced to change direction to avoid HMS Sutherland. Lt. Stanley admitted ‘negligently hazarding a ship’ at Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire and was “severely reprimanded” and fined £4,000. Read more on this story here.

500,000 sharks could be killed for coronavirus vaccine: Around half a million sharks could be killed for their squalene, a natural oil made in the livers of sharks, which could be a key ingredient in a coronavirus vaccine. Squalene is used as an adjuvant – an agent which improves the immune response of a vaccine – with major pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline using it in the flu vaccines they produce. With the company aiming to make around one billion doses of adjuvant for use in coronavirus vaccines this means that up to 500,000 sharks could need to be killed to supply enough squalene. Stefanie Brendl, the founder of the California-based campaign group Shark Allies said: “Harvesting something from a wild animal is never going to be sustainable, especially if it’s a top predator that doesn’t reproduce in huge numbers.” There is hope that a synthetic adjuvant could instead be used, potentially made from fermented sugar cane. Read more on this story by clicking here.