Leon Roskilly
18:52 (1 hour ago)

to tom, ABrothers10373., richard, member, andymarquis, hancockgeoff, pmacconnell, plugger1, peterrussell50, tpsappleby, rogerbaker, pat.g.boyle, ianburrett, stephen.evans, mike, barry.scholes, Gekbass, malcolm.brindl., jh018c2560, johoks, dcains2854, jan.kappel, andy, bobcoxhooked, dickpratt

MEPS vote not to increase fish stocks

13 Sep 2012
Chris Davies said that the vote would be greeted with dismay. Credit: Philippe Alès Chris Davies said that the vote would be greeted with dismay. Credit: Philippe Alès

The European Parliament has voted not to support the European Commission’s proposals to rebuild Europe depleted fish stocks.

Right-of-centre MEPs secured a majority of five for an amendment deleting a call for fish numbers to be kept above the level necessary to produce maximum sustainable yield.

Supporters of the move claimed that the Commission plan would cause too much hardship for fishermen, who would be required to reduce fishing effort to allow more fish to breed.

But opponents accused them of destroying the long term future of the fishing industry.

Chris Davies, secretary of the cross-party ‘Fish for the Future’ group in the Parliament, said that vote would be greeted with dismay by people across Europe.

He said: “We must have more fish in the sea if we are to have a successful fishing industry.

“Most people understand this and they will be astonished that so many MEPs simply don’t get it.”

Although the decision this week was not binding, campaigners for reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy fear that it sets a poor precedent with votes on legislation due to begin next month.

Tories Back Sea Anglers in Fish Stocks Battle

Leon Roskilly
5 Sep (3 days ago)

to tom, ABrothers10373., richard, member, andymarquis, hancockgeoff, pmacconnell, plugger1, peterrussell50, tpsappleby, rogerbaker, pat.g.boyle, ianburrett, stephen.evans, mike, barry.scholes, Gekbass, malcolm.brindl., jh018c2560, johoks, dcains2854, jan.kappel, andy, bobcoxhooked, dickpratt
Now that The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP has been confirmed as the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it might be a good time to remind him (and DEFRA) of this.:)


Tories Back Sea Anglers in Fish Stocks Battle
The Scotsman – Edinburgh,Scotland,UK

Tories Back Sea Anglers in Fish Stocks Battle

By Amanda Brown, PA Environment Correspondent

The Conservatives today pledged to help around one million anglers in their attempts to stop over-fishing of the UK’s fragile marine stocks.

Owen Paterson, shadow fisheries minister, was launching a party policy document at Looe in Cornwall promising to take “full account of the needs of recreational sea fishing, limiting commercial activity if necessary to ensure that those needs are met”.

The party said that if it wins the General Election it will “create a stable and equitable framework for the fishing and allied industries, including the recreational fishing sector and tourism, which would generally protect the interests of the United Kingdom”.

The National Federation of Sea Anglers said the document reflected much of its advice.

Chairman Ted Tuckerman said: “We are urging all political parties to recognise that men, women and children recreational anglers in the UK are an important and profitable sector of the fishing industry and their needs warrant equal consideration with those of the commercial sector.

“We want to work with whoever forms the next government to reverse the damage inflicted on valuable fish stocks by years of poor management decisions taken solely in the interests of commercial fishing and often to the detriment of sea anglers.”

The NFSA said that in the last year the value of sea angling to coastal economies had become widely recognised in government and parliament after vigorous lobbying.

Mr Tuckerman said: “The Government is now seriously listening to our demands to protect and rebuild fish stocks to benefit sea anglers.

“We have briefed the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative parties. Now the Labour Party is asking us for advice.”

Conservative proposals for sea angling licenses would only be supported by the NFSA if there was clear, unambiguous evidence that they would benefit sea angling and not be just a tax.

Leon Roskilly

09:20 (7 hours ago)

to tom, ABrothers10373., richard, member, andymarquis, hancockgeoff, pmacconnell, plugger1, peterrussell50, tpsappleby, rogerbaker, pat.g.boyle, ianburrett, stephen.evans, mike, barry.scholes, Gekbass, malcolm.brindl., jh018c2560, johoks, dcains2854, jan.kappel, andy, bobcoxhooked, dickpratt  (Follow link for the whole blog)

Influencing Europe over freshwater and sea fishing

Last week Mike Heylin, Mark Owen and David Mitchell represented anglers at the European Anglers Alliance meetings in Berlin. Mike Heylin was elected as the new chairman of the EAA’s sea sub-group and to the board of EAA.

With David Mitchell the current secretary of the sea sub-group the Angling Trust is now in an even stronger position to have an influence over European policies and directives that affect both sea and freshwater angling.

The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy continues to dominate discussions on sea angling while members of EAA also discussed the idea of holding a ‘European Angling day’ in 2013; raising awareness of angling around Europe and promoting it’s many benefits.

Click on the following link to access the newly published

Report of the Working Group on Recreational
Fisheries Surveys (WGRFS)

Next steps for Marine Conservation Zones


19 July 2012

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Natural England have presented the formal Advice Package on 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

This advice marks the latest step towards the Government’s objective to create a well-managed network of Marine Protected Areas to help protect the range of habitats and species in our seas by the end of 2016. The Advice Package is being provided to Defra to support the decisions the Environment Minister will make on the designation of MCZs after a formal public consultation is held (the consultation will start in December 2012).

The process for making recommendations on where MCZs could be located has been unique, since sea users have been at the centre of it. For two years, four regional MCZ projects have worked extensively with specially formed groups of regional stakeholders involving representatives of different organisations, regulators, interest groups and individuals whose activities might be affected by MCZs. Balanced Seas represented the south-east; Finding Sanctuary the south-west; Irish Seas Conservation Zones the Irish Sea; and Net Gain represented the North Sea. These four regional MCZ projects submitted their final recommendations to JNCC and Natural England in September 2011.

Since then, JNCC and Natural England have assessed the ecological implications of the four projects’ recommendations for MCZs, and the ecological evidence base for the sites. At the same time, economists from the four regional MCZ projects have prepared socio-economic impact assessments for each MCZ, as well as for all the sites combined.

All of this information – the regional MCZ projects’ recommendations (from September 2011), the regional MCZ projects’ impact assessments, and JNCC and Natural England’s formal advice regarding the ecological evidence – is being brought together to make up the Advice Package  presented to Defra on 18th July.

Next steps

Between now and the end of the year, Defra will assess each component of the Advice Package and will provide its own impact assessment, which will be used during the three month public consultation that will open in December 2012.  Following the consultation, it is anticipated that the Minister will select:

• Sites that are backed by robust evidence, to designate in summer 2013
• Sites where further evidence is required, to designate at a later stage
• Sites that are not considered suitable to progress

Once the first wave of MCZs is designated in summer 2013, JNCC and Natural England will provide their conservation advice packages for each site to help inform how these sites should be managed. Management measures will be proposed by the appropriate regulatory authority for each designated MCZ and finalised following local consultations and input from sea users and other interested parties.

James Marsden, Director Marine at Natural England, said: “The formal handover of the Advice Package marks the latest stage for Marine Conservation Zones, and provides Government with a comprehensive ecological assessment of the recommended MCZs that will be subject to wide-ranging public consultation in December. Over the last three years, the four regional sea user groups have put in a huge amount of effort to produce their recommendations, and we are enormously grateful for their immense hard work and dedication. Natural England and JNCC commend the work that has been done and the process used to steer this project through safely to the next important phase.”

John Goold, Director of Marine Advice at JNCC, said: “Since the recommendations were handed over to JNCC and Natural England last September, we have been assessing how well these recommended sites meet the ecological guidance set out at the start of the project. The regional MCZ projects’ recommendations are an epic achievement by a huge number of people, and we estimate that the organisations engaged by the regional MCZ projects have, through their membership, shared data representing over 600,000 stakeholders. The recommendations show good progress towards achieving an ecologically coherent network, with the aim of combining recommended MCZs with existing MPAs.  We are pleased to submit our advice to Defra, so they can begin to evaluate it in earnest, and we look forward to the next steps.”


Notes to Editors

1. For more information:

a)  Inshore recommended MCZ sites (0-12 nautical miles), contact Michelle Hawkins, press officer, Natural England on  0300 060 1109

b) Offshore recommended MCZ sites (12 – 200 nautical miles), contact JNCC’s press office on  01733 866 839   or

The Government’s two Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies have different geographical remits with JNCC advising on nature conservation between 12 – 200 nautical miles of UK waters, and Natural England advising within 0 – 12 nautical miles of English waters.
2. The Advice Package:

The Advice Package contains three components:

a) The final recommendations for MCZs made by the four regional MCZ projects in September 2011, unchanged:

Balanced Seas (south east): link

Finding Sanctuary (south west): link

Irish Sea Conservation Zones (Irish Sea): link

Net Gain (North Sea): link

b) An impact assessment developed for each MCZ, and a combined summary, made by the economists from the four regional MCZ projects:

The impact assessment section:
• summarises the information presented in the four regional MCZ projects’ recommendations
• summarises the benefit of designating the recommended MCZs
• identifies activities that would need to be managed in order for the proposed conservation objectives of the recommended sites to be achieved
• identifies possible management measures
• assesses the impact of designating the recommended MCZs on different sectors on a site-by-site basis, and a regional basis where appropriate
• provides information on the evidence used to identify the possible management measures and assess the impact of designation

c) The statutory nature conservation advice made by JNCC and Natural England assessing the ecological implications of the recommendations, and the ecological evidence base for the sites:

The statutory nature conservation advice section covers:
• an overview of the regional project process used to identify possible Marine Conservation Zones
• advice on the creation of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas
• JNCC and Natural England’s view of the regional project recommendations
• an assessment of the scientific certainty of the regional project recommendations
• an assessment of the most at risk sites/priority sites for protection

3. The MCZ Advice Package is available to read on both JNCC and Natural England’s web sites:

JNCC’s web site: link
Natural England’s web site: link

4. The MCZ Project process and statistics

As a result of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, four regional MCZ projects were set up involving representatives of different organisations, regulators, interest groups and individuals – known as stakeholders – whose activities might be affected by MCZs. Balanced Seas represented the south-east; Finding Sanctuary the south-west; Irish Seas Conservation Zones the Irish Sea; and Net Gain represented the North Sea. The process used for identifying where MCZs should be located was unique, in that it put sea users (‘regional stakeholder groups’) at the centre.

Designed to protect the range of habitats and species in our seas, MCZs are a new form of Marine Protected Area (MPA) – which is an important tool to protect the marine environment. They help society use the goods and services provided by the sea in a sustainable manner.

The regional MCZ projects conducted over 2,300 interviews with stakeholders to gather information on their use of the sea, organised over 150 regional or local events, and engaged with an estimated 600,000 sea users by liaising with numerous organisations and their memberships. These four regional MCZ projects submitted their final recommendations to JNCC and Natural England in September 2011.

Recreational sea fisheries to be included in the CFP?

Published: 01/06/2012

In a letter to the European institutions, the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) have requested explicit mention of recreational fisheries in the CFP.

The recreational fishers have requested full “sector” recognition under the CFP, which would give them the same status as commercial fisheries and aquaculture. This would also bring the EU into line with the USA. Moreover, an explicit mention in the CFP of their sector would most likely improve access to the fisheries fund.

They argue that explicit recognition in the CFP would help to ensure management coherence for stocks such as salmon, which cross between rivers and the sea. This could represent a change in the way that open sea and coastal salmon fisheries are managed. A particular problem is mixed fisheries, which exploit a significant number of salmon from two or more rivers. In these cases, the anglers recommend that specific measures for mixed stock salmon fisheries are taken to ensure that no individual stock is exploited unsustainably.

Recreational Sea Angling is an important attractor for coastal resorts that rely upon tourism, as well as it’s multiplier effect on coastal economies.



Tourism is undoubtedly an economic backbone of coastal regions. At present about 2.36 million people are employed in the coastal tourism sector, representing 1.1% total EU employment. Around 51% of bed capacity in hotels across Europe is concentrated in regions with a sea border. Cruise tourism alone represents a distinct segment generating direct turnover of € 14.5 billion and nearly 150,000 jobs.

The immense number of islands and their seaside, Greece’s history and its archaeological sites, the beauty of nature and art, make tourism particularly important for Greece: it accounts for 15% of the Greek economy and is key to trigger growth and create new jobs; last year, travel and tourism combined contributed €12.6 billion to the country’s GDP and 332,000 jobs: 8% of the country’s total employment.

Yet, at the same time, this sector faces specific challenges: the dependency on beach tourism, the lack of innovation culture and a growing competition from regions outside Europe still limit its impact.

With my fellow-Commissioner Antonio Tajani, we want to take action to address those issues. We aim at defining a European approach to reap the full potential of a sustainable and smart coastal and maritime tourism.

The European Union already provides access to financing for tourism-related small and medium enterprises through its financial programmes and will continue to do so. Also, the existing European Fisheries Fund and the future European Maritime and Fisheries Fund do and will help boosting the sustainable development of fisheries areas, supporting economic diversification, so that fishermen can start new profitable activities, such as pescatourism.

But we still lack a comprehensive overview of the recommendations and initiatives that can be sponsored and promoted at European level.

This is why the European Commission is now consulting those who work in the field, as well as any other interested organisation and citizen, with a view to produce a concrete strategy for Maritime and Coastal Tourism in the EU by the end of this year: a tangible initiative about what Europe can do to boost growth and create jobs.

“The surprising thing was not so much the dramatic reduction in specimen size, but the near-constant smiles on the sea anglers’ faces through the decades. Roberts describes this as “shifting baseline syndrome”. Each generation forms its own view of the state of the environment, he observes. Knowledge of past conditions erode with time with the result that each fresh generation of anglers has no idea that the previous generation would have been disappointed with such an equivalent haul. “

Callum Roberts’ Ocean of Life is a manifesto for marine management

The book calls for a new deal for the world’s oceans – and explains why we need to save the seas to survive on land

Composite: Recreational fish landings in the 1950s, 1980s and 2000s in Key West Florida

Recreational fish landings in the 1950s, 1980s and 2000s in Key West, Florida. Photograph: Monroe Countu

It’s probably a bit too soon to start talking about candidates for books of the year. But, within the environmental field, Callum Roberts’ latest offering should already be considered a strong contender.

Roberts is that precious pearl: a practising scientist who not only knows his field inside out, but also understands how to write compelling, persuasive non-fiction. As professor of marine conservation at the University of York, Roberts has spent the past two decades studying some of the world’s most pressured, damaged marine habitats. He has also been actively involved in the frustrating international negotiations aimed at saving our seas. To use the vernacular of his book, he has trawled and plundered these experiences to craft the nearest thing we are ever likely to get to an all-encompassing manifesto for sustainable marine management.

The prologue of Ocean of Life: How Our Seas Are Changing establishes the scale of the problem – and, more importantly perhaps, our collective inability to act, or even notice – with a set of photographs unearthed by a fellow marine scientist Loren McClenachen in a library in Florida. She found photographs ranging from the 1950s through to the 1980s taken of recreational fisherman proudly holding aloft their catches.

The surprising thing was not so much the dramatic reduction in specimen size, but the near-constant smiles on the sea anglers’ faces through the decades. Roberts describes this as “shifting baseline syndrome”. Each generation forms its own view of the state of the environment, he observes. Knowledge of past conditions erode with time with the result that each fresh generation of anglers has no idea that the previous generation would have been disappointed with such an equivalent haul. One of the causes of being blind to the unquestionable damage we have inflicted on the oceans over the past 30 years is “our failure to notice creeping environmental degradation”.

The other problem, observes Roberts, is that so much of the damage being caused to our oceans is unseen, either beneath the waves, or miles offshore. Out of sight, out of mind. But it would be quite wrong to paint Ocean of Life as a requiem of despair.

Yes, it has some shocking, depressing, desperate things to say about the parlous state of the world’s seas. There are chapters on acidification caused by climate change, plastic pollution, “dead zones” caused by agricultural run-off, and a particularly arresting one on the impact underwater “noise” caused by human activity is having on animals such as whales. And, of course, it has plenty to say about the now familiar subject of industrialised fishing. However, a third or more of the book is devoted to potential solutions – and it is this which places it in the “must-read” category.

“Without action, we are on a high road to hell,” Roberts says. “That’s a given. We need a complete rethink of the seas. We need to rebuild habitats by increasing abundance and variety.”

The key, says Roberts, is the establishment of a network of marine protected zones. We already have a working example to prove it can be achieved, he says, explaining how in 2010 he was involved in the process that led to the creation of a network of protected zones in the northeast Atlantic. “It is now being policed for illegal fishing.”

This matters, he says, because areas where fishing is strictly managed, or even suspended, can witness remarkably rapid “rebound”, which, over time, can lead to an increased catch for less effort expended. He cites the example of reserves off St Lucia in the Caribbean. “There has been a staggering recovery since 1995 when the reserves were first introduced. When I first dived there before this period the fish were largely gone. Now there are five times as many fish as before. The rebound can be surprisingly quick. Scallops can turn around in five years. Flounder and haddock take a bit longer.”

Another area whether this has already been proved is the Oresund strait between Denmark and Sweden. Due to the intensity of shipping in the area, mobile fishing gear has been banned since the 1930s. To the north, an area 10 times larger called the Kattegat has continued to be fished by bottom trawls.

“In the late 1970s, fishers trawled 15-20,000 tonnes of cod from the Kattegat while gillnetters in Oresund took about 2,000,” Roberts explains in the book. “In 2008, the Kattegat yielded 450 tonnes of cod, compared to 2,140 tonnes from the Oresund. Research catches made in Oresund that year showed cod to be 15-40 times more abundant than in Kattegat and much bigger too … The Oresund and its fisheries have remained in great shape because they are protected from the most destructive kinds of fishing. Despite the fact that it covers just 2,000 square kilometres and the coasts that border the strait are home to nearly 4 million people, marine life flourishes.”

It is “an extraordinary example” of what can be achieved through strict management, Roberts tells me. “But the European Common Fisheries Policy is a disaster right now. Quotas are still a political process, rather than scientific. There is no real melding of environmental and fishing regulations. We get progress then get setbacks.”

More widely, on a global level, political mechanisms also frustrate common-sense approaches to marine stewardship. “We need to eliminate flags of convenience at the UN level because it allows ships to avoid regulation. It is a crazy situation. The planet is too small to allow this. Also, consensus-based decision making, rather than majority rule, allows small minorities to determine what happens. We would now have a ban on bluefin tuna fishing if Iceland, with its tiny population, hadn’t been allowed to block the vote.”

Roberts is calling for a “new deal” for the world’s oceans. For example, he wants an outright ban on fishing beneath 800 metres and a phasing out of bottom trawl and dredge fishing. But the focus is not entirely placed on the fishing industry. One problem he forecasts will become much more prominent over the next decade is deep-sea mining. As mining technology improves, and resources become ever more sought after, companies will push deeper into the oceans in search of minerals, metals and fossil fuels.

“Look at the deep sea hydrothermal vents off Papua New Guinea,” he tells me. “These might now be mined for their mineral crust, which contain rare earth metals. They use a large vacuum cleaner to bring it to the surface and the tailings will then have to go somewhere, basically, back into the sea. These vents are ancient and biologically diverse. The International Seabed Authority has been taken by surprise by the speed of these developments.”

Ultimately, though – as is true with virtually all environmental problems – if we want to see genuine action, we landlubbers need to realise how the future fate of the seas will directly impact on us all. “Reinvigorating the sea isn’t an altruistic act of self-sacrifice,” concludes Roberts at the end of his book, “it makes sense on the grounds of self-interest too … We are creatures of the ocean.”

• Ocean of Life, by Callum Roberts, is published by Allen Lane

Angling Trust Input Into The 2012 Reform of The EU Common Fisheries Policy

EU Logo

A clear and undeniable need exists for the current EU Common Fisheries Policy to be fundamentally reformed. Commentators, politicians and scientists all widely agree that, since its inception, the CFP has failed to deliver on its environmental, social and economic objectives. Its industry centric approach, which has focused on sustaining a commercial fishing industry in Europe, has depleted European fish stocks to historically low levels with over 70 per cent of European fish stocks now being fully exploited or over-fished.

The priority for reform of the CFP should be the restoration of Europe’s publically-owned fish stocks for the benefit of society as a whole. Sea anglers are direct user stakeholders of our marine fish resources which, in turn, are directly affected by the decisions made through the Common Fisheries Policy. 

The sea angling sector across Europe is becoming increasingly affected by the common fisheries policy; while at the same time not being recognised as a valid stakeholder in the management of Europe’s fish stocks, thereby having no influence over its direction or outcomes. 

The EU commission has identified five key areas for reform of the CFP (click on them for more details).

Transferable Fishing Concessions

Full details of the reform package can be found on the European Commission’s website

You can also download this leaflet outlining the basic principles of the reform.

The Directors of the fisheries ministries will meet in Brussels on May 30th 2012 to discuss some final issues before the Ministers meet on June 12th to adopt a Council position – then the focus moves to the European Parliament and its CFP report.

European Parliament timescale:

  • Deadline for amendments: June 18th 2012
  • Exchange of views on the amendments: September 16th 2012
  • Vote in Committee: October 9th 2012
  • Vote in plenary: November 2012 
More information on the Angling Trust’s input into the reform of the CFP can be downloaded below.

Fish Forensics Gets an Upgrade

by Rachel Nuwer on 22 May 2012, 11:00 AM

Dubious source. European hake caught in the Atlantic are often misreported as coming from the Mediterranean.

It’s no wonder that fish stocks around the world are plummeting. Up to 25% of the global catch comes from illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Now, science has stepped in to offer a new method to identify contraband fish. A €4 million pan-European project, launched in 2008 and called FishPopTrace, has devised a much-anticipated way to differentiate marine populations of the same species with up to 100% accuracy.

Regulatory agencies like those in the European Union are trying to crack down on the illegal fish trade, but the task is not easy. How does a manager tell the difference between, for example, an illegally harvested Northeast Arctic cod and a perfectly legal Eastern Baltic cod? They belong to the same species but come from very different populations.

The new approach relies on genetic variants called single-nucleotide polymorphisms. SNPs occur when tiny segments of DNA differ between populations. For example, the Northeast Arctic cod may have a C nucleotide in the middle of a gene, whereas the Eastern Baltic cod may instead have a T in the same position.

The researchers decided to focus their method on four of the most overexploited fish species in Europe: cod, hake, herring, and sole. They wanted to figure out the smallest number of SNPs needed to accurately identify a population. To do that, they first flagged hundreds or thousands of SNPs in each species. Then they used simulations to identify the most reliable pattern of SNPs for identifying populations of each species. For example, with just 14 SNPs, the researchers were able to pinpoint the source of 98% of 766 samples of hake.

All in all, the new method’s accuracy varied from 93% to 100%. The researchers think most of the scant outliers that slipped through the SNP test were likely migrant fish that had sneaked into other populations. In the real world, sampling several fish from each catch should take care of this problem. Gary Carvalho, a molecular ecologist at Bangor University in the United Kingdom and coordinator of FishPopTrace, and colleagues published their results today online in Nature Communications.

“This is a tremendous breakthrough,” says Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at the international advocacy group Oceana located in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study. “These are critical tools in our fight against illegal fishing and mislabeling and enable us to put some teeth into our fisheries laws and eco-certifications.”

This technique arrives just in time. The European Union requires all E.U. member states to undertake pilot studies of fish population tracing tools by 2013. Already, the European Union demands species and origin labels on all fish products. Existing DNA tests can easily determine species, and SNPs will potentially reveal the origin, at least for the four species studied in FishPopTrace. The United Kingdom will likely be the first to vet the authenticity of fish origin labels on supermarket shelves in an upcoming pilot project.

The researchers hope the tool can be used far beyond European ports. Indeed, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recently established its own fisheries forensics expert group and is keen to adopt the new technique, Carvalho says. The researchers think that the threat of forensic testing will be a significant deterrent against illegal harvesting. For this goal to be realized, though, all countries need to be on board. If not, criminals will unload at ports with lenient inspectors rather than those that use forensic validation. “Fish don’t respect national boundaries,” Carvalho says. “There’s no point in the U.K. doing this if neighboring nations don’t also adopt it.”

Identifying SNPs for all commercial species will be expensive, but once an open-access database is in place, the researchers say that the tests could be widely used. “We anticipate a global database where these data on genetic signatures—the SNP signatures—can be openly downloaded,” Carvalho says. So long as labs are properly equipped, samples can usually be analyzed in less than 24 hours—still a long time in the fish business—and cost less than $25 per fish.

The link below will take you to a very interesting Guardian article about the potential effects of warming sea waters. The comments on farmed salmon are well worth a look. The number of escaped fish is frightening!

The UK’s marine reserves are nothing but paper parks

The government is in breach of its promise to create a network of marine conservation zones by 2012

Seagulls follow fishing trawler off the coast of Galicia, Spain

Seagulls follow fishing trawler. In most cases, the fishing industry can continue to overharvest fish within marine reserves. Photograph: Alex Segre/Rex Features

What do the terms “marine reserve” and “marine-protected area” conjure up for you? Places in which, perhaps, wildlife is protected? In which the damaging activities permitted in other parts of the sea – such as trawling and dredging – are banned? Wrong.

A marine-protected area in the United Kingdom is an area inside a line drawn on a map – and that’s about it. In most cases, the fishing industry can continue to rip up the seabed, overharvest the fish and shellfish, and cause all the other kinds of damage it is permitted to inflict in the rest of this country’s territorial waters. With three tiny exceptions, our marine reserves are nothing but paper parks.

The exceptions are the pockets of sea around Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran and Flamborough Head in Yorkshire. Together they occupy a grand total of 0.01% of British waters. These are the country’s only “no take zones”: places in which fishing and other extractive activities are banned.

After conducting a massive review of the evidence, in 2004 the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution proposed that 30% of the United Kingdom’s waters should be designated no-take zones. In 2009 a coalition of environmental groups launched a petition with the same aim: it gathered 500,000 signatures. But this didn’t make a damn bit of difference to either the Labour or the coalition government.

The government is now in breach of its promise to designate an “ecologically coherent” network of marine conservation zones by 2012. The excuse it gives for the delay is that “there are a number of gaps and limitations in the scientific evidence base”. But as the Royal Commission pointed out in 2004, the seas around this country “have been scrutinised in great detail since at least the mid-19th century”, and the data is easily sufficient “to design comprehensive, representative and adequate networks of marine protected areas for UK waters.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the commission, which often voiced inconvenient truths, was shut down by Cameron’s government soon after it took office.

The Westminster government originally agreed to protect 127 sites in English waters, but now it appears to be paring the list down. Within these sites, only the “vulnerable features” will actually be protected; elsewhere it will be business as usual. If the government’s record so far is anything to go by, the vulnerable features will amount to a few handkerchiefs of seabed. The remainder of these “conservation zones” can continue to be pulverised by beam trawlers and scallop dredgers.

But even if all 127 proposed marine conservation zones were to be designated, and even if the entire area of these zones were to be protected, that would account for a total of 0.5% of our seas: one sixtieth of the area recommended by the Royal Commission. In Wales the situation is even worse. The government there says it will consider “no more than three to four sites” , covering 0.15% of its seas.

So what about all those other marine reserves, such as our special areas of conservation? These are supposed to offer the highest level of protection available under European law, and are officially described as “strictly protected sites”. Surely they offer our wildlife some protection? Wrong again.

The Marine Conservation Society has produced a gut-wrenching catalogue of the damage being done to these places by scallop dredgers, rock-hoppers (boats towing gear which turns over boulders to get at the fish sheltering among them) and all kinds of other destructive devices. If they are banned at all, it is only from a few small corners of the “strictly protected sites”, often by voluntary agreement, and almost always reactively, after extensive damage has already been done.

The idea of actually protecting special areas of conservation, in their totality, in advance and by law, seems to be unthinkable to our governments. As Client Earth and the Marine Conservation Society point out, this puts the UK in breach of the European Habitats Directive.

The issue has come to a head once more with reports that scallop dredgers have been operating, apparently for the first time, in two recommended Marine Conservation Zones (Holderness Offshore and Inner Silver Pit) and one candidate special area of conservation (Inner Dowsing) in the North Sea.

The UK has a fleet of nomadic scallop dredgers, mostly based in Scotland and the Isle of Man, which travel from one conservation area to another, ripping them to shreds, aware that our governments will do nothing to stop them. Scallop dredgers operate by raking through the seabed with long metal teeth, dislodging the shellfish and trapping them in a net whose underside is made of chain mail. The teeth rip through the other lifeforms in their path; the steel mesh smashes the animals missed by the teeth. It is hard to think of a more effective method of destroying marine life, yet it is permitted in most of our special areas of conservation and other marine reserves.

The Marine Management Organisation, which is supposed to protect these places, merely wrings its hands. It knows it must apply the government’s universal policy: that nothing should interfere with business, however damaging it is, however much it might harm the natural environment and even other businesses. (Local fishermen say that the scallop dredgers in just one of these sites have recently caused £100,000 of damage to their gear. They are likely to have done even greater damage to the fisheries on which local boats rely).

The chances of Richard Benyon, our fisheries minister, whose crashing conflicts of interest I exposed last month, demanding the protection of anything but the profits of the most destructive and short-sighted industries appear to be close to zero. It’s intensely frustrating for anyone who loves the marine environment, and it’s another powerful indication that “the greenest government ever” is even more destructive than its predecessors.

CFP reform’s most important draft report revealed

With the ‘devil in the detail’, exactly where such areas are established may or may not affect angling I guess.


“Member states shall establish fish stock recovery areas in which all fishing is prohibited. 10 percent of the territorial waters shall be protected within three years of the entry into force of the regulation. (Amendment 68)”

Sea Angling 2012: New online surveys launched

Reference: SA03-12
02 April 2012

A new online survey is being launched in April for sea anglers to contribute to Sea Angling 2012, the largest survey yet of sea angling activity, catches and economic value in England.

All sea anglers who fish from the shore or boats - beginners and experts alike - are invited to participate in the survey, and have a chance to win fishing tackle prizes. Simply click on the project website and follow the links.

The survey will ask about the number of days anglers fished in different regions, and about the species that were caught. It will also ask how the quality of sea angling has changed over the years.

This first online survey is specifically covering the period January to March 2012, and further surveys will go online in July, October and the following January to cover the rest of 2012.

This is one of several surveys comprising Sea Angling 2012 – information is being collected directly from anglers during their fishing trips all round the coast, and an online survey is also available now on the Sea Angling 2012 website for sea anglers to tell us how much they spend on sea angling and the other benefits they get from the sport. The economic survey is being run by the social research co-operative Substance in collaboration with Cefas and the Universities of Cardiff and Newcastle.

Anglers contributing to these surveys are in with a chance to win rods, reels and tackle vouchers from Daiwa, Shimano, Go Outdoors and Pure Fishing in our quarterly prize draws – see the project website for details of the prizes available and how to win them.

The Project Manager, Cefas’ Mike Armstrong, said: “We are carrying out these online surveys alongside the direct interviews with anglers to help build up a more complete picture of sea angling activity and its economic and social benefits in England.

“Taking part in the surveys is voluntary,” he continued, “but we hope that most anglers will participate as they will see the benefits of having evidence that can give sea angling a bigger voice in the development of marine policy. Even if you are just a beginner, or didn’t catch much – we still want to hear from you.”

The Sea Angling 2012 project is the biggest-ever survey of the sport in England. The project is being run throughout 2012 by Cefas on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and in collaboration with the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities who are interviewing anglers directly for this project, and by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

Sea Angling 2012 aims to improve the scientific understanding of fish stocks off the English coast and to ensure that the needs of sea angling are represented as effectively as possible in future marine policy development.

Notes to editors

  • For more about the aims of the Sea Angling 2012 project, visit its website:
  • Cefas is the UK’s largest and most diverse applied marine science organisation, which operates as an executive agency of Defra. It provides evidence-based scientific advice, manages related data and information, conducts world-class scientific research, and facilitates collaborative action through wide-ranging relationships. For more detail about its range of activities visit
  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is an executive non-departmental public body (NDPB) established in April 2010 and given powers under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA). Its mission is to enable the sustainable development of English seas. More information on the MMO is available from its website

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Issue 9: March 2012Hello and welcome to the MCZ Project Newsletter – designed to keep stakeholders up-to-date with the work of the Marine Conservation Zone Project through to designation. In this update:

  • Your opinion matters – how and when it is being taken into account
  • The MCZ impact assessment: your questions answered
  • Gathering more evidence
  • The in-depth review of evidence supporting the recommended MCZs
  • The Red Tape Challenge – have your say about marine regulation

Your opinion matters

We understand that many people are concerned that the MCZs recommended by the regional MCZ projects, if designated, might prevent them doing the activities or work that they currently do. The government’s policy is to minimise negative impacts on sea users as much as possible, while still delivering the much needed protection for our marine wildlife and habitats.  If you are concerned about the possibility that MCZs might affect your activities, here are some things that might be helpful to know:

  • The MCZ designation process has been designed to take into consideration as much information as possible to provide Ministers with a comprehensive picture of the situation, on which they can base their decisions. The process is staged, with opportunities for different people and organisations to feed information and opinions into the process at different times. If you weren’t involved in developing the MCZ recommendations that were submitted by the regional MCZ projects in September 2011, there are further opportunities to share your views during the Public Consultation in December 2012.

Read more

The MCZ impact assessment: your questions answered

The MCZ Project welcomes your feedback and questions. We have had lots of enquiries about the MCZ impact assessment. You can find out more from our MCZ impact assessment factsheet or the following frequently asked questions:

Who is responsible for the impact assessment (IA) – Is it Natural England and JNCC?  If not what is the role of Natural England and JNCC?
The IA is being developed and is owned by the regional MCZ projects with support from the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) – Natural England and JNCC – and Defra experts to ensure it satisfies Government requirements.

Is the draft material for the IA available for comment?
Over the last few months the regional MCZ projects have invited the Regional Stakeholder Groups (RSGs) and the named consultative stakeholders to comment on the draft material for the IA in three batches – new material on impacts was presented with each batch. The final date for comment on the last batch of material was 5th March 2012.

Read more

Gathering more evidence for MCZs: Offshore survey work begins

The Science Advisory Panel provided advice to the government in October 2011. They advised that the evidence base underpinning some of the recommendations made by the regional MCZ projects needed strengthening to increase confidence in the presence and extent of features in recommended MCZs and recommended an in depth review of the evidence base for each site recommendation (see below). Recognising the importance of an adequate evidence base, the government has commissioned seabed and habitat surveys of recommended MCZs, which are currently underway.Read moreIn-depth review of evidence supporting the recommended rMCZs

The Ministerial Statement on Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) published on 15th November 2011 included a commitment to carry out an in-depth review of the evidence base for all the regional MCZ projects’ site recommendations.

To address this commitment and support the work already being taken forward by Natural England and JNCC, Defra has appointed ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd (ABPmer), supported by the Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA) and Marine Planning Consultants (MPC), through open competition, to undertake a review of the ecological evidence.

Read more

MCZ Designation Timetable

  1. 17thJuly 2012:  Natural England and JNCC submit the regional MCZ project recommendations and IA with statutory advice whether the recommendations satisfy the Ecological Network Guidance (ENG) design criteria and principles, highlighting any gaps or duplication.
  2. 2012:Public consultation led by Defra.
  3. 2013:Government designates 1sttranche of MCZs.
  4. Natural England and JNCC will provide more detailed conservation advice for MCZs following designation.  This may be used by Public Authorities to inform their decisions on management measures.

The Red Tape Challenge

The Red Tape Challenge was launched by the Prime Minister on 7 April 2011 to support the government’s goal of reducing regulatory burdens on businesses by reviewing the entire stock of over 21,000 statutory instruments and regulations. The government wants to hear your views on which regulations could be; improved or redesigned; kept or scrapped; or implemented more efficiently.

Read more

We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and find it a useful update on our progress. For this project to be a true success it is vital that we maintain the continued support from as broad a range of stakeholders as possible. So please feel free to share this newsletter with others who use or have an interest in our seas.

 In this issue:

How to stay in touch

The Project will be regularly sending out newsletters with information on the MCZ designation process including the public consultation. For more information you can email or visit the following websites:
Defra’s MCZ Project webpage
Natural England’s MCZ Project webpage
JNCC’s MCZ Project webpage

Useful contacts or call us on 01733 562626

Useful links
Ecological Network Guidance
Project Delivery Guidance
MCZ Project Features Catalogue

MCZ Project Interactive Map
Explore the MCZ Project Interactive Map

Our mailing address is:


Monkstone House
City Road

Peterborough, Cambridgeshire PE1 1JY

Copyright (C) 2012 JNCC All rights reserved.

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Illegal net filled with dead fish found at nature reserve

EAST YORKS: An illegal net filled with dead fish has been discovered at Spurn National Nature Reserve.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust found the 30m net. It had been staked out at low tide to catch any- thing swimming past. A Redshank wading bird had to be freed.

Andrew Gibson, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s outer Humber officer, said: “We are very saddened that some people have decided to flout the law and do this on the trust’s land.

“We have a great relationship with the local angling community who work with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to ensure that Spurn remains a fantastic place for wildlife and people.

“I know they are just as upset as we are at this grim discovery.”

The net has been removed by the trust and The North Eastern Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority has been informed. They will be collecting the net as evidence in case the culprits are identified.

It is the first time such a net has been disco- vered in the Spurn area in almost ten years.

Visit for more information on the Spurn site




Welcome to the long overdue Irish Bass eNewsletter. Following the success of getting the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) proposal rejected a little complacency may have slipped in. As many of you will understand this cannot be allowed to happen. While our bass legislation remains intact for now, I suspect that it will always remain under threat. We must never be complacent.

Many things have happened since the last newsletter. Here are a few of the important ones:

  • Minister Simon Coveney officially rejected the FIF bass proposal.
  • As from August 2011 Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) can enforce in full all aspects of the bass legislation. Previously only the SFPA (Sea Fisheries Protection Authority) could enforce parts of the law.
  • The IFI have already had some success in dealing with illegal bass activity. They do however need our help so: “If you see it, report it! 1890 347424”
  • Tralee Institute of Technology are running the first courses specifically aimed at bass guides. It is hoped that these courses will give any new and even existing guides the skills they need to show Ireland’s bass resource in its best light. We hope to see more of these courses set up in other areas soon. We’ll let you know when we find out more.
  • The IFI set up a special ‘Bass Policy Group’ to review all current aspects of bass management. Every part of bass management was looked into and many new recommendations have been made. The group consisted of representatives from different levels of the IFI and the Marine Institute. I was the only angling representative from the bass angling community. This situation was not ideal but sadly I had no part in how the group was formed. To be fair several members from the IFI are very keen bass anglers also. I did my best to represent the views of all bass anglers.

The next newsletter will contain some of the recommendations that were put forward. What I can say is that the policy document is about strengthening and improving Ireland’s bass angling resource. For the first time we will have a national policy on bass.

If anybody would like to send in reports please email us at  A photo or two would be good as well.


Most people who fish with plugs cast and retrieve at a constant speed. Try stopping the lure every so often. This will make it look much more like a natural bait fish.


You need to act fast. The deadline is the 31st March. It only takes a few seconds so do it today.

The Government have decided to give the public a chance to recommend ideas on how we might get better value from Ireland’s marine resource (

Sea angling has not been taken seriously for many years right across the EU. I would urge you to take this opportunity to tell the Irish government the enormous opportunity that exists by considering the needs of sea anglers when making management decisions about our seas.

Click here ( and you can quote from some of the figures below if you wish.

  1. Recreational sea angling is worth €10 billion a year across the EU. We could do a much better job of cashing in on this enormous sum of money.
  2. Irish angling tourism was worth €105 million in 2009 and €88 million in 2010. This figure does not include the considerable spend of Irish anglers.
  3. Across the world, specific sea areas reserved for angling have proved to be much more valuable to the economy and the environment than when they were open to commercial fishing.
  4. Sea angling gives by far and away the most economically and sustainably viable return to the economy while doing virtually no damage to the marine habitat.
  5. In the EU all marine fish stocks have been managed solely for the benefit of commercial fishermen (with the one exception of Irish bass). As these marine fish stocks belong to all of us, it is time for this to change.


The current warm spell means that bass angling in the South West is in full swing. Bass are freely taking lures and soft plastics. The South coast is fishing very well but so far most fish are coming to bait.

Wexford and Waterford have some super bass around for the bait fishermen at the moment. With sea temperatures continuing to rise more fish will be taken on lures.


If anglers could all work together for better management of our fish stocks, then we would be a serious force to be reckoned with.

Visit us at“…to safeguard the future of Irish sea bass, the anglers who respect them and the many livelihoods those anglers support”Become a friend of


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———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Defra – Marine Strategic Policy Team <>
Date: 28 March 2012 08:56
Subject: Marine Strategy Framework Directive Consultation: UK Initial Assessment and proposals for Good Environmental Status
To: “” <>


Marine Strategy Framework Directive Consultation: UK Initial Assessment and proposals for Good Environmental Status


Consultation Start: 27 March 2012

Consultation End: 18 June 2012


I am writing to invite your views on our consultation paper on the initial stages of implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).


The Directive requires Member States to take measures to achieve or maintain Good Environmental Status (GES) for their seas by 2020.  GES involves protecting the marine environment, preventing its deterioration and restoring it where practical, while using marine resources sustainably.  The Directive is very wide-ranging and sets out eleven descriptors of GES relating to biological diversity, non-indigenous species introductions, commercially exploited fish and shellfish populations, food webs, human-induced eutrophication, sea floor integrity, hydrographical conditions, concentrations of contaminants, contaminants in fish and other seafood, litter and noise.


The purpose of this consultation is to seek views on:

  • The draft initial assessment of the state of the UK’s seas;
  • The proposals for UK characteristics of GES; and
  • The proposals for detailed UK targets and indicators of GES.


You can find the consultation documents at:


You can find more information on the MSFD including consultation Q&A and factsheets at:


We welcome your views and comments on the proposals. Please send responses by 18 June 2012 to:


Marine Strategy Framework Directive Implementation Team

Area 2D Nobel House

17 Smith Square




Or email:


Naomi Matthiessen

Head of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive Implementation Team

Defra Connect is a corporate communication service for Defra and its delivery bodies.





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Malcolm Gilbert Blog Main Image 004

Are you reassuredIn 2003 a report to Government called Net Benefits was published. This report was the result of research by the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit into the whole marine fisheries sector and was researched and assembled by some of the country’s top economists. The report made some stunningly welcome recommendations in respect of Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) amongst its 200 plus pages, including: “Fisheries department should review the evidence of supporting arguments for re-designating some commercially caught species for wholly recreational sea angling beginning with bass”

It went on to say, “Management to maximise opportunities for recreational anglers means reducing commercial fishing pressure to allow species such as bass, favoured by sea anglers, to grow to much larger sizes. Management for multiple uses is possible.” The report also confirmed the value of the RSA sector when it stated, “Recreational anglers spend around £1 billion per year on their sport”. Perhaps the most controversial inclusion was  “The over arching aim of fisheries management should be to ‘maximise the return to the UK of the sustainable use of fisheries resources and protection of the marine environment”.

Our public fishery resourcesIn 2005 the Government published its response to Net Benefits called Securing the Benefits and one of the recommendations to be accepted by Government was the overarching Aim of achieving, “A fishing sector that is sustainable and profitable and supports strong local communities, managed effectively as an integral part of coherent policies for the marine environment. (The ‘fishing sector’ in this instance means all aspects of catching, processing, retail and associated industries that rely on wild-fish catch, including shellfish. This includes the recreational sector.)”

Securing the Benefits then listed a number of ‘Objectives’ that would be used to achieve the overarching ‘Aim’. These included: “To secure the management of fish stocks as an important renewable resource, harvested to optimise long term economic returns.” And to help achieve the objectives the Government undertook to, “Develop policy based on the best available biological, economic and socio-economic evidence”.

Management to maximise opportunitiesSo there we have it. Our public fishery resources should be managed to provide the best possible return to the UK plc on a long term sustainable basis and management should be evidence based. Are you reassured? Well if you’ve been fishing for a few decades you will have seen first hand how many fish stocks are scarcer and consist of far smaller fish. You will undoubtedly ponder on the Government’s interpretation of “long term”. According to many expert commentators and the Governments own strategy document for long term sustainable fisheries management, Fisheries 2027, the greatest negative impact on the marine environment as a whole is caused by unsustainable fishing.

So Government, (who fully acknowledge they are the Nation’s custodian for public marine fishery resources), knows it should be managing them for the ‘long term’ but doesn’t actually deliver management on that basis, preferring to take the easy route of short term appeasement towards the powerful commercial fishing lobby. If, despite knowing they should be managing for the ‘long term’ they are not doing so, what about their stated goal of managing for ‘best possible return’ and making decisions based on ‘evidence’?

Which type of exploitation generates ‘the best possible return’? Recreational or commercial?

In my next post I’ll explore some of the arguments, debates and ‘evidence’, surrounding the complex issue of utilising public fishery resources for the best return.

Malcolm Gilbert – 20/03/12

Are marine protected areas working?

Posted on March 22, 2012

In 2002, the Convention on Biological Diversity asked for governments to protect at least 10% of all ocean areas. At present, 10 years after this convention, marine protected areas (MPAs) cover only just over 1% of all ocean area.

Some studies of MPAs (eg. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef protected area) show positive results  – that the establishment of these areas have given real benefits to the ecosystem.

Others have had real problems that have led to inefficient protection of habitat and ecosystem function. These range from protecting the wrong habitats to insufficient regulation of fishing and other commercial activities within the protected area.

In the past decade there has been a large increase in the creation of ever-larger marine protected areas, spurred by the creation of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in 2006 by the United States, the largest MPA at the time, covering 360,000km2. Marine protected areas size almost doubled between 2008 and 2010

Since then, Australia has plans for a 900,000km2 MPA, while Britain has established a 544,000km2MPA in the Indian Ocean.

There also seems to exist a culture of discouragement towards any critical studies of marine protected areas, making any inefficiencies into how MPAs are managed or established harder to identify and solve.

There is little debate whether or not a good MPA can be effective in protecting biodiversity. Studies collated across 124 reserves in 29 countries found that measures such as biomass and species richness increased inside the protected areas once they had been established.

However many MPAs are not effective due to improper enforcement or monitoring. A recent study of 20 protected areas found that 3 were not effective on any level while none were highly effective at meeting objectives such as making sure resources were used sustainably.

A reserve in south-western Australia was criticized by 173 scientists for protecting too few types of habitat.

There are solutions to this problem – computer programs have been made which minimize the cost of proposed marine protected areas while maximizing the number of habitat types covered by the protected area.

Studies of the cost-effectiveness of marine protected areas are few and far between, and the effectiveness of species conservation can be unexpected – take the case of the Hawaiian monk seal whose population has decreased within the marine protected area but increased outside of it.

However, the general benefits given by the establishment of MPAs tend to outweigh any inefficiency in zoning, and we should encourage governments to establish MPAs while we still have marine biodiversity left to protect of Irish angling to be assessed PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 March 2012 17:33
INLAND Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has appointed Tourism Development International (TDI) to undertake a Socio-Economic Survey of Recreational Angling in Ireland. The overall objective of the survey is to establish the current volume and value of domestic and overseas recreational angling in Ireland. It will run over the course of 2012.Pike, coarse fish, bass, salmon, sea trout, brown trout and sea anglers will all be invited to participate in Irelands most comprehensive angling survey undertaken in decades. The Survey will inform IFI and its tourism partners in relation to the angling product in Ireland and also enable improved strategic planning and decision making in respect of product development and marketing.“Anglers are the key to this survey”, commented Minister Fergus O Dowd, TD, “they know the resource and they understand the importance of sustainability. What anglers contribute to Ireland’s economy is unknown but I am certain that it is significant. Angling takes place in every river and lake in Ireland and all around our coastline. There is no town or village in Ireland that doesn’t have anglers. It is imperative that the inland fisheries and sea angling resources are managed in the best way possible to ensure enjoyment for our local and visiting anglers, sustainable jobs in rural communities and maximising its potential to add to Ireland’s economy. Getting the right information from those most involved will greatly assist in improving the angling product.”The survey comprises two parts, a household survey and a survey of recreational anglers which will commence in April. Anglers will be met at fishing locations throughout Ireland and invited to participate there and then, or later by phone or on-line. Every effort will be made to accommodate participation

Should we eat eel? MCS and ICES remain opposed to Sustainable Eel Group scheme

By Lewis Smith


March 21 2012 Lewis Smith


No imageGlass eels

Many chefs would love to serve eel, the Sustainable Eel Group believes it can guarantee sustainable supplies. But it remains on the Marine Conservation Society’s list of fish to avoid. So what’s the problem?

European eel have been classified as a critically endangered species. They have, after all, suffered heavy declines across the continent since the 1970s. Glass eels, the juvenile stage as they arrive in Europe, have been particularly hard hit, with a decline of 95 to 99 per cent in 30 years.

Many restaurants have now, as they did with bluefin tuna, taken eel off their menus – especially those that want to demonstrate their sustainable credibility through Fish2fork.

Caprice Holdings restaurants took eel off the menu because of concerns about its numbers but still get requests for it, especially at J Sheekey which was known for its stewed eels and other eel dishes.

Tim Hughes, chef director at Caprice, said: “I enjoyed cooking eel. There’s so much you can do with a smoked eel. We’ve got a tradition of eel in Britain. You go back to jellied eel and there are some fantastic smokeries. If you get it with a green sauce it’s got that lovely richness. As long as it gets the ok from Fish2fork and the MCS I would like to put it back on the menu.”

With the creation of the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) and the development of its Sustainable Eel Standard there was hope at least a few migratory fish could be cooked and served again by the nation’s best chefs without threatening future stock levels.

The SEG states: “This Standard is the first version of an initiative to identify and promote the most sustainable and responsible practices in the eel fishing, with the aim of protecting eel stocks and enhancing their recovery. It is based on the best available science.”

It places a variety of demands on suppliers, including stipulations on the type of equipment used in catching the eels, a limit on permitted mortality levels, and rules on the traceability of each fish.

Crucially, the standard also demands that a significant proportion of glass eels are returned to the wild, once they have spent several weeks growing in the safety of captivity. For silver eels there is the stipulation that at least 40 per cent are able to pass downstream unharmed as they head off to the Sargasso Sea.

The standard was put together with the same methodology as the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainability label, which is regarded as a gold standard of seafood eco-labelling. The Sustainable Eel Group, however, has yet to convince the Marine Conservation Society is good enough at protecting European eels to be treated as being any better than industry best practice.

Dave Parker, fisheries officer at the MCS, said that the group followed scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) when judging whether fish should be put on its list of species to avoid eating.

As yet, he said, there is no scientific evidence that taking glass eels from the wild, allowing them to grow in captive safety for several weeks and then putting them back in the wild does anything to increase breeding stock. In particular, he said there is no evidence any captured and releases as juvenile eels have survived to silver eel maturity and to make it back to the Sargarsso Sea.

The latest ICES advice is also clear that it regards fishing for eels and cooking them as activities that should be avoided. It stated in November: “The status of eel remains critical and urgent action is needed. ICES reiterates its previous advice that all anthropogenic mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing, hydropower, pollution) affecting production and escapement of eels should be reduced to as close to zero as possible until there is clear evidence that both recruitment and the adult stock are increasing…. stocking should not be used to continue fishing.”

Whatever the advice on whether they should be eaten, Dr Matt Gollock, of the Zoological Society of London, believes the Sustainable Eel Standard, which he helped create, is a force for good.

France catches more eels than any other European country and despite reducing its glass eel fleet from 1,800 vessels to 600 in ten years it is not going to shut down the fishery, he said.

“If the fishery is going to continue, and France if the place where that fishery is happening at its largest, I would argue having a standard in place is a positive step. It’s about being pragmatic.”

For the moment, European eel remains a fish the MCS and Fish2fork advise against eating. Fish2fork will, however keep a close eye on developments.

Leon Roskilly sent the following:

Friday, March 16, 2012

THE Angling Trust have told the Government to crack down on illegal fishing.

They went to Parliament at the invitation of the Environmental Audit Select Committee, with Mark Lloyd and Martin Salter giving evidence to a House of Commons inquiry into wildlife crime.

The Angling Trust told MPs the current system of fines and penalties is not a strong enough deterrent and that it was time to get tough on illegal fishing.

Salter criticised the fines handed out at last month’s prosecution in Scotland, where 17 skippers were found guilty of illegal catches worth over £62million. They got off with fines of no more than £80,000 each.

Salter said: “The fines represented just a fraction of the illegal profits made from robbing a public resource and damaging an important fishery.”

My own view on the subject is that those caught may be just the tip of the iceberg and then there is a small matter of the boats from the continent

Plans to ban fishing discards threatened by EU member states

A group of European Union member states are planning to thwart key reforms aimed at conserving dwindling fish stocks

Fishing for prawns near Oban, Scotland

A group of European Union member states are planning to thwart key reforms aimed at conserving dwindling fish stocks. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty images

The prospects of banning the wasteful practice of discarding edible fish at sea may be extinguished within the next few days, as a group of European Union member states are planning to thwart key reforms aimed at conserving dwindling fish stocks.

Campaigners, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, have been calling for a ban on discards – the practice by which as many as two thirds of healthy fish caught by fleets are thrown back into the sea, dead – for more than a year. In his series, Hugh’s Fish Fight, he pointed out that half of all fish caught in the North Sea are thrown back overboard. He called moves to block the proposed ban “worrying in the extreme”.

A change to European common fisheries policy to ban discards looked likely as the call had been taken up by the EU fisheries chief, Maria Damanaki. Her reforms would mean that fishermen would forced to land all fish they catch, receiving some compensation.

But on Monday, a group of member states – led by France and Spain – will hijack a council meeting of all the EU’s fisheries ministers, the Guardian has learned. They will attempt to pass a “declaration” that would allow discards to continue indefinitely.

Some fishermen – mainly companies with industrial-scale vessels – want to keep discards because by throwing back lower value, though edible, fish they can maximise their profits.

The Guardian has seen a copy of the declaration that the member states want Monday’s council meeting to adopt. If it is passed, experts warned, then the hopes of banning discards would effectively be dead.

“This declaration looks like a vote for maintaining the status quo, or at best tinkering at the edges, and allowing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of perfectly edible fish to continue to be wasted in European waters,” said Fearnley-Whittingstall. “If it succeeds I fear we can expect negligible progress on discards for many years ahead.”

The declaration begins with statements supportive of Damanaki’s moves to reform fisheries policy. However, by the fifth of the seven clauses, the true intent of the document – to wreck the discard ban – becomes clear, as the ban is dismissed as “unrealistic” and “too prescriptive”.

The signatories “re-state their commitment to an ambitious reform of the common fisheries policy,[and] reiterate their view that the wasteful practice of discarding fish, that is tolerated and in some cases even promoted by the current management system, constitutes a considerable obstacle on the road to a sustainable fisheries policy.”

But this is followed by: “[We] consider that a discard ban as proposed in the draft basic regulation of the future common fisheries policy is unrealistic and too prescriptive, and that a pragmatic approach is needed especially in the context of mixed fisheries, particularly in the Mediterranean [and] support instead the inclusion of a significant reduction of discards … on a fisheries-based approach.”

These caveats would effectively mean that fishermen could continue to discard edible fish at sea indefinitely.

“This will kill the reform,” one Brussels insider said. “It would be the end. Monday is make or break time for the policy.”

Ruth Davis, chief policy adviser for Greenpeace UK, said: “We cannot accept another decade of discarded fish and devastated fish stocks. Discarding is a perverse consequence of a broken policy that must be addressed in the context of wider radical reforms to the common fisheries policy. We would like to see European leaders demonstrate that they believe their own rhetoric and have the courage to take the necessary steps to reduce over-fishing and support the small-scale, sustainable fishing sector before it’s too late.”

The member states currently signed up to the declaration are led by France and Spain – the two countries “that make the music” on fisheries policy, according to one fisheries expert, as the positions those two adopt are usually followed by newer member states. They are joined by Portugal and Belgium, but other countries are wavering. Italy and Cyprus may sign up, as may the Irish. Heavy lobbying is going on behind the scenes, and will continue until the meeting on Monday.

Germany is undecided on its stance, but the UK is seen as unlikely to sign up because of the strong public position taken by ministers on the issue. However, an influential select committee of MPs said recently, in a controversial judgement, that discards should be allowed to continue.

Discarding results in as much as two-thirds of the fish caught being thrown back in the water, with about 1m tonnes estimated to be thrown back each year in the North Sea alone. Discarding is a consequence of the strict quotas in the EU under the common fisheries policy on the amount of fish that boats may land. When fishermen exceed their quota, or catch species of fish for which they do not have a quota, they must discard the excess.

But many fishermen, particularly companies with large-scale industrial fishing vessels, would like to retain the practice, because it enables them to throw away lower value fish and keep the most valuable in order to maximise their profits.

Spain’s stance was prefigured in a secret document revealed by the Guardian this year, which showed that the previous Spanish government was planning to scupper the proposed ban. The incoming government said at the time its position had not been decided, but it is now evident that Spain – which has the EU’s biggest fleet and receives more of the EU’s fishing subsidies than any other member state – is orchestrating opposition to the ban.

“Ending this horrendous waste has to be the number one priority of a reformed CFP, and I’m going to do all I can to keep it on the top of everyone’s agenda,” said Fearnley-Whittingstall, “Over three quarters of a million people have already signed the Fish Fight petition calling for an end to discards … Now its time for the politicians and decision makers to make it happen.”

Joint declaration on fishing discards

A group of EU member states – led by France and Spain – will hijack a council meeting on Monday of all the EU’s fisheries ministers, the Guardian has learned. They will attempt to pass this ‘declaration’ that would allow discards to continue indefinitely

Joint Declaration on discards
in the context of the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy
1 reiterate their commitment to the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources and to the preservation of a European fisheries sector in all its diversity,
2 note the variety of fishing practices and management methods within the European Union which must be preserved and properly taken into account,
3 re-state their commitment to an ambitious reform of the common fisheries policy, based on the principle of sustainable development and aiming at the maximum sustainable yield in the framework of ecosystem-based fisheries management,
4 reiterate their view that the wasteful practice of discarding fish, that is tolerated and in some cases even promoted by the current structure of the management system, constitutes a considerable obstacle on the road to a sustainable fisheries policy,
5 consider that a discard ban as proposed in the draft basic regulation of the future CFP is unrealistic and too prescriptive, and that a pragmatic approach is needed especially in the context of mixed fisheries, particularly in the Mediterranean,
6 support instead the inclusion in the basic regulation of the ambitious objective of a significant reduction of discards,
7 consider that this objective should be pursued on a fisheries-based approach, in the framework of the multiannual plans, on the basis of a thorough impact assessment examining for each fishery the causes of discards and assessing the environmental, economic and social impact of the measures foreseen to reduce unwanted catches.

Something needs to be done to save Channel stocks

Thursday, February 16, 2012

South Wales Evening Post

RECREATIONAL sea anglers will be keen to see how long any announcement will take from the Welsh Assembly Government with regard to oversized vessels that have been allowed to fish with historical rights for many years within the six-mile shore limit in the Bristol Channel.

For many years anglers could be accused of apathy, but on this particular subject the angling public, tackle trade and inshore commercial fishermen have turned out in force to convince the powers that be that such fishing rights have destroyed and continue to destroy some of our most important species.

If the consultation proves successful for the RSA, etc, this would be a victory for common sense, and together with the inshore fisheries groups, a real opportunity will exist to manage the fishery.

The Bristol Channel faces many problems over the next ten years and some of the projects under consideration, either singly or collectively, could prove to be a serious problem. Some of the problems that could be faced are:

A Severn Barrage is back on the Government’s agenda.

There are gas power proposals for Swansea Bay.

There are further dredging proposals off Gower whereby a group of firms have revived an application for dredging 10km off Worm’s Head to take 27 million tonnes over the next 15 years. Many are convinced that this will seriously affect habitat if allowed to go ahead.

The huge wind farm mid-channel stretching down to nearly Lundy Island.

Fishing-wise, one serious point has to be taken into account: the Moody Marine survey of the Bristol Channel Bass Trawl Fishery showed that the bass stock levels are not sustainable.

Here are a few of the other points that have been discussed over the last three years to bring stocks of many species back to an acceptable level.

While bass are very important, plaice and turbot are in serious danger, mainly due to larger trawlers who have concentrated their efforts within the six-mile limit.

IFG’s could possibly discuss the use of no towing gear within the area 0-3 miles.

Bag limits — the Welsh Office (as it was called then) confirmed to South Wales Sea Fisheries that they would have no problem in supporting a bag limit of five bass per day per angler.

Some of the trawling, especially around March time, seems to be concentrated on breeding stocks of bass so there may well be a need to discuss a closed season.

Longlining — larger bass are already in short supply, and though this is a method which is not used extensively, it does account for taking larger bass.

No-take zones — these have been discussed for some time, which may well lead to commercial fishermen and RSA being exempt from certain areas, which in turn would mean no discards.

Nursery areas – do they need to be extended?

Fish minimum sizes.

This all seems quite frightening, but the time has come for the fishery to be managed properly.

lyndon lammas

Anglers’ group resumes push for ban on commercial bass fishing

By Kaimi Rose Lum
Provincetown Banner
Posted Feb 17, 2012 @ 07:33 AM

It’s round two for a recreational anglers’ group seeking to ban commercial bass fishing in Massachusetts. The Maine-based organization “Stripers Forever,” which pushed unsuccessfully for the prohibition in 2010, is redoubling its efforts, proposing three bills that will air in the state Legislature on Feb. 28.

The first bill aims to outlaw the commercial harvest and sale of striped bass and designate it a gamefish. It also proposes changes to the recreational rules by reducing the recreational catch from two fish per-person per-day to one fish and creating a slot limit that wouldallow the taking of bass between 20 and 26 inches long, to protect vulnerable year classes, or above 40 inches, to protect the biggest fish. Current restrictions limit the taking of bass to those 28 inches or longer.

The second bill calls for funding to study contaminants in the fish. The third would require that any changes to the laws on commercial bass fishing take into account the economic effects on the recreational fishing industry.

The hearing before the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Feb. 28 at the State House in Boston. The bills are sponsored by Rep. Thomas Stanley of Waltham.

Craig Caldwell, a Harwich resident and board member of Stripers Forever, said the move to ban commercial bass fishing is primarily about revenue. Recreational fishing rakes in more dough than commercial fishing, he said, because it attracts people who spend money on hotels, clothing, gear and so on.

“In so many communities, from Texas around the panhandle all the way up the East Coast, gamefish for so many species is the backbone of the economy,” Caldwell said. Blaming commercial fishermen in part for the decline in bass numbers over recent years, Caldwell said he almost cries when he thinks what the Cape could be with a recreational-only bass fishery.

“Bar none, we could be the world’s top destination for striped bass fishing, period,” he said. “If we can get the bass to where they were, we will bring in so much money.”

Caldwell cites statistics from NOAA that show a drop in the recreational bass catch from 8.1 million pounds in 2006 to 1.3 million pounds in 2011. “I used to catch 200 or 300 fish per year just in the estuaries. I caught just 12 last year,” he said — a change he attributes to commercial fishing, although he acknowledges there may be environmental causes as well.

“If they are a market-based commodity they will essentially go extinct,” he said.

Skeptical of statements that commercial bass fishing, too, provides economic opportunity, Caldwell said most of the commercial bass fishermen around here are just “electricians and plumbers” who chase stripers to make a little extra cash.

“For every pound of fish that commercial fishermen catch, we’re putting 50 bucks in their pocket, but we’re taking $450 out of the local economy,” he said.

Truro resident Tim Silva begs to differ. A commercial bass fisherman for 44 years, he’s built his house with the money he earned on the water. He also makes jigs, which he sells to commercial fishermen.

A ban on commercial bass fishing would create a hardship for him and his family, he said.

“Half of my income comes from that. It would be devastating for me,” Silva said. He added that there are plenty of fishermen who make their living by catching various species throughout the year — a necessity in these days of closures and “catch shares”  — and who would take a hit from a commercial ban on bass.

Silva disputes the claim that commercial fishing does little for the local economy.

“I spend a lot of money in the tackle shops, I spend a lot of money at the boat yard,” Silva said. “When I go buy eels [for bait], I’ll buy 25 pounds, which is about 200 eels. A recreational guy will go in and buy two or three.”

Silva said that if Stripers Forever is concerned about preserving the striper population then it should address issues like environmental degradation and habitat loss rather than focus solely on depriving commercial fishermen of the right to harvest bass.

“If you want to take care of the fish, let’s do it together,” said Silva, who is concerned about the loss of eelgrass beds that provide shelter for species like bass and young cod. But overtures made along those lines have gone nowhere, he said.

“All they care about is the elimination of commercial fishing,” said Silva of Stripers Forever. “I keep saying the fish are for everybody, not for one special group.”

Dean Clark, co-chair of Stripers Forever’s Massachusetts division, said the bill is not a resource grab by recreational fishermen.

“It’s a conservation bill trying to save striped bass. If this were not a conservation bill and if it were a resource grab, then the recreational people would not voluntarily have their harvest quota reduced by 50 percent,” Clark said, referring to the proposed adjustment to the recreational take.

Clark said opposition to the ban is coming from “a bunch of individuals lobbying for their own selfish self-interest. … As long as there is a commercial need to harvest fish or the commercial ability to harvest fish there will be pressure on the regulators to do just that. That’s why I want to get the commercial interest out of the regulatory meeting room.”

Even some recreational fishermen, however, are ambivalent about the legislation. Provincetown charter boat captain Rich Wood said that although commercial fishermen “can take a lot of fish” — they’re allowed 30 per day three days a week and five on Sundays until the quota is filled, a roughly three-month season — he is against a complete ban.

“On Cape Cod there’re some commercial fishermen that truly use that money to supplement their income,” he said. “For those people for whom it truly is a part of their life and support system, I’m leaning toward continuing that.”

What he doesn’t like, he said, are the “75 percent of people who go and get a commercial bass permit … and use it to supplement their hobby, pay for their equipment, pay for their boats, whatever.”

Wood said perhaps there is a way to change the striper season so that “you don’t take as many fish and stretch the season out longer.”

He is in favor of the proposed changes to the recreational side that would limit the take to one bass per-day per-person, saying it will help avoid the waste of fish. Why not tweak the commercial rules, too, he suggested.

“There’s a lot of pros and cons on the commercial side, but I think if you’re going to look at the recreation side and charter boat side, and reduce those, then maybe there’s a way to reduce the commercial side,” Wood said.

We must suffer short-term economic pain to make our seas sustainable

Easing the pressure from fishing and shipping will hurt – but collapse of our oceans will hurt a great deal more

The collapse of our oceans will hurt a great deal more than easing the pressure from fishing and shipping. Photograph: Corbis

Our marine environment is facing a defining moment. We are an island nation set in the midst of what were once some of the most productive seas on the planet. But a report earlier this year from the Independent Panel on the State of our Oceans (IPSO) warns us that the decline in the vitality of our oceans is in fact worse than our direst predictions. The pressing question is – what are we going to do about it?

Fishing used to be a battle against the elements in which every success was hard won and most fish escaped. While it can still be a battle against the elements, improved catch techniques and equipment mean that most fish don’t escape. We may be getting better and better at catching, but it is taking more and more effort – about 17 times more than at the end of the 19th century, when the downward trend in fish stocks began in earnest.

But hugely reducing the fish stocks isn’t the only thing we have done over the past 100 years. We have also disturbed vast areas of sea bed and destroyed rich habitats which has further reduced the productivity of the seas. We have poured effluents and pesticides and mining residues into the sea via our estuaries. We have removed gravel and oil and sand and gas. We have caused the temperature of our seas to rise, disrupting marine systems. In short, we have exploited the sea mercilessly and everywhere. This once huge larder, climate regulator, heat exchanger and absorber of carbon is stressed beyond endurance.

There is only one sensible answer for a human race intent on surviving as long as possible. We must nurse it back to health and productivity – we must manage it sustainably.

One vital step in that management is to create marine sanctuaries, places where damaging human activity is not allowed. Who would argue against the idea that 25% of the sea should largely be left to its own devices, with human beings “only” allowing themselves exploitation of the remaining 75%? We have one last chance to get this right; can’t we, in the interests of future generations and the health of our planet, confine ourselves to three-quarters?

It would seem not. The proposal before the UK government to establish a network of marine protected areas covering 22% of our inshore waters is being undermined from every direction, largely on the grounds that short-term human self-interest is more important than long term sustainability.

There are two broad threads to this argument. One says that we don’t have enough evidence to define protected areas accurately, so until we can we should carry on as before. Damage until you can manage. However, the reverse now needs to be true. If we don’t know enough about an area to exploit it without damage, we should keep out. If you can’t manage, don’t damage. At least one-quarter needs to be protected urgently, to avoid disaster. So let’s protect the quarter currently being proposed, and then seek to refine the network of protected areas as more evidence becomes available.

The other argument – one which is being advanced by some MPs in the south-west – says that some of the sites selected require too much human sacrifice – mainly economic sacrifice – to be realistic. This is perpetuating the very thinking which brought us to our current state of imminent collapse. There must be change, we must exploit less, we must ease the pressure on our seas. This means that some activities will be reduced. Less pressure from fishing, less pressure from shipping, less pressure from extractive industries. There are bound to be places where this will hurt. But it is manageable hurt. Collapse of our oceans is not manageable and will hurt a great deal for a great many people. We must choose the lesser of two evils now, while we still have the chance.

On 15 November 2011 16:55, Leon Roskilly <> wrote:

Major set back for our seas





Media release

15 November 2011

A major setback for our seas



Our seas are suffering serious damage and need protection now, according to The Wildlife Trusts, in response to today’s ministerial statement on Marine Conservation Zones.


The statement announces the Government’s intention to gather further evidence on the 127 Marine Conservation Zones recommended by stakeholder groups.  The recommendations are the result of consultation with more than one million stakeholders including fishermen, conservationists and businesses. The process has cost around £8.8million to date.


The groups made their recommendations based on the ‘best available evidence’ as advised by Defra in 2010.  The process of gathering additional evidence is expected to delay designation of Marine Conservation Zones by at least a year.


The Wildlife Trusts believe all 127 sites should be designated. Today’s statement, made by Natural Environment and Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, promises all 127 sites will be consulted on. However, there is no indication of when, or how many might be designated. The Wildlife Trusts fears the delayed  timeframe could put marine species and habitats at considerable risk of further degradation.


Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said:


“We welcome the commitment that Defra has announced today to consult on all 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English Waters.  However, despite international evidence for the urgent need to protect our seas, the Minister’s statement will result in further unacceptable delay. 


“Stakeholders have been discussing Marine Conservation Zone recommendations for more than two years, based on Defra’s 2010 guidance to use ‘best information currently available’.  But now Defra appears to be changing the level of evidence required, after stakeholders have made their recommendations.  If more data is needed, it could be collected during consultation or even after MCZ designation.  We are disappointed that we now face a further delay of at least 12 months when more damage to marine habitats will continue to occur.”


The Wildlife Trusts’ Petition Fish campaign aims to raise public support for Marine Protected Areas at sea. To find out more visit



Contact information:

Anna Guthrie (Media & PR Manager)

Office: 01636 670075

Mobile: 07887 754659


Tanya Perdikou (Media & Campaigns Officer)

Office: 01636 670057

Mobile: 07887 754657




Notes for editors:

The Wildlife Trusts (TWT)

There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK.  All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone.  Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas. We run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife.  Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.

On 15 November 2011 16:48, Leon Roskilly <> wrote:
With increasing panic amongst environmental organisations over signs that the Government is rapidly backing away from establishing a meaningful network of Marine Conservation Zones, significantly reducing the number of proposals going forwards, the following announcement has been made.

Written Ministerial Statement on Marine Conservation Zones

Environment Minister Richard Benyon today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

As part of the Government’s commitment to implementing in full the provisions of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, we are creating a network of national protected areas in British seas to ensure our underwater wildlife flourishes in years to come. We are clear that looking after the wildlife and habitat in our seas is just as important as looking after those on land.

The Government’s first step to identifying new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English waters was taken forward through four regional MCZ projects managed by the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies, who are Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. The regional projects provided their recommendations for proposed sites for MCZs on 8 September. These have been reviewed by the independent Science Advisory Panel (SAP) and their advice to the SNCBs and Defra is being published today on Defra’s website.

The Marine and Coastal Access Act requires the establishment of a network of conservation sites in the UK marine area.  In English waters the network will comprise European Marine Sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, sites designated under the Ramsar Convention and Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).  The Act requires that the network must conserve or improve the UK marine environment and protect a range of representative features.

The regional MCZ projects have done excellent work in bringing stakeholders together and making site recommendations, but it is clear from the SAP’s advice that there are a number of gaps and limitations in the scientific evidence base supporting the MCZ recommendations.

It is important that we get this right.   It is vital that we have an adequate evidence base for every site if we are to create successful well-managed MCZs.  An adequately robust evidence base will be essential when we come to implement management measures.

Defra will therefore be commissioning significant additional work to support MCZ designation including an in depth review of the evidence base for all the regional projects’ site recommendations and committing additional resources to carrying out seabed and habitat monitoring.

Protecting our marine environment is essential and the Government remains fully committed to establishing MCZs to contribute to an ecologically coherent UK network. However, the need to strengthen the evidence base for the MCZ recommendations means this is going to take longer than the ambitious target first put forward.   We are likely to be able to designate some MCZs fairly quickly where the supporting evidence is adequate.  However, for others we anticipate that more investigation will be needed before they can progress towards designation.

Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee will provide the MCZ impact assessment and their formal advice in July 2012.  This is six months later than previously planned and this revised timetable will  enable them to address the recommendations from the Independent Review of the Evidence Process for Selecting Marine Special Areas of Conservation (published July 2011) and take account of any further evidence obtained from the work that Defra is now commissioning.   We will give careful consideration to all the advice received before undertaking formal public consultation on MCZs by the end of 2012.   This consultation will include all sites recommended by the Regional Projects with clarity on how and when work on them will be taken forward. It is envisaged that  the first MCZ  designations will take place  in 2013.

Defra and delivery partners will work together ensuring that early management measures are put in place to provide effective  levels of protection for designated sites and continuing to build the evidence base for future designations. Defra will also take the opportunity, working with stakeholders and SNCBs, to look at other marine features which may benefit from spatial protection.

This phased approach to designation will also allow more scope to shape the English network taking account of sites being considered by the  devolved administrations and neighbouring Member States.

Bass Management in Northern Ireland

At long last, the Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland (DARDNI) have published their Department’s Review of the 2010 Consultation on proposals to replicate bass management legislation as exists in the Republic of Ireland across Northern Ireland thus harmonising bass management across the island of Ireland. Details can be found at: 

Their conclusions are ambiguous. In some regards we think they have it right and the results are better than might have been the case but total harmonisation it isn’t and both the decision to exempt trawled bass from the legislation and in particular their rationale for so doing, raises serious questions about an apparent change to the whole purpose of their original proposals.

BASS have submitted a written response – see below — and hope that as many as possible from the Recreational Sea Angling community will also make representation.

Although this issue may at first seem to only be about bass in Northern Ireland, it is in fact an opportunity to begin altering the culture within the entire UK Management of marine fishery resources. If bass effectively become a RSA species in Northern Ireland, it will be the first instance in the United Kingdom for such designation. Such designation will contribute to altering the mindset of decision makers and politicians from one where commercial fishing is perceived as the ‘all important’ sector whilst RSA is all too often perceived as a fool with a rod trying to drown worms. Establishing the validity of RSA as a socially and economically valuable use of marine fishery resources, is a prerequisite to achieving a better deal for RSA in terms of both fisheries management and maintaining access to our coastline.

You may think BASS is exaggerating the potential that the DARDNI deliberations may have for improving the lot of RSA in general. However, please consider this:

Total commercial fish/shell fish landings in Northern Ireland in 2010 were £35.25 million. Bass accounted for just £1591 which is just 0.004% of total first sale value. On the evidence you wouldn’t think commercial interests would be bothered if bass in NI became a total RSA species but commercial fishing leaders understand the long term repercussions should bass be designated 100% recreational. This is why it is clear from the DARDNI Review, that despite commercial bass landings being so insignificant, the commercial voices are strenuously endeavouring to maintain their own access to the species. They understand the potential strategic significance of this issue and are almost certainly responsible for having persuaded Review staff to move the goalposts (see ‘Overarching Objective’ below).

The key issues to raise with DARDNI are:


No one wants to see any fish discarded but in the case of accidental trawl bass catches, the quantities are so small that in context with the whole discard issue, the discard of bass is insignificant. If accidental catches of bass are allowed to be landed and therefore enter the supply chain, it will make enforcement of the proposed legislation very difficult if not impossible. Any wild bass found in the supply chain will simply be passed off as having originated from a trawler. Whereas, if NO bass are allowed to be sold the loop hole doesn’t exist. The proposed exemption for trawlers creates a loop hole that will almost certainly result in increased bass mortality as illegally caught bass (from whatever source) will be easier to sell and in terms of protecting the bass resource, mortality levels are more important than discards.

Stock assessment.

The Review confirms that trawl catches of bass are “small and infrequent” and are taken from “offshore waters whereas bass tend to be located in the inshore zone”. The notion of using such haphazard catches for stock assessment purposes borders on the bizarre.

Overarching objective of proposals.

The Consultation Paper was headed: Proposals for the introduction of Regulations for Protection & Conservation of Sea bass. Consultation documents stated:  “Sea Bass is important to our angling community and is considered a prize fishery by this group and sea angling for Sea Bass could provide an additional opportunity for the development of angling within some parts of our waters and could enhance income to our coastal communities through chartered fishing trips for both local and European fishers and an increase in angling tourism.” and: “It has been proposed that the species should be reserved for recreational angling by adopting measures similar to those already existing in the Republic of Ireland”.

The Regulatory Impact Assessment included that Recreational Sea Angling in NI is already valued at £7.4 million. The original intention of the proposals was to harmonise bass legislation with that in Southern Ireland where the species is managed as a tourism driver.

However, the Review at paragraph 30, now introduces the entirely new idea that the proposals are about conserving bass stocks until such times as they improve, when restrictions on commercial exploitation could be reviewed. So, should these proposals eventually contribute to bass becoming more abundant, the notion of developing a sustainable valuable recreational sea angling sector as a tourism driver is now replaced with the idea of developing a commercial bass fishery.

The goal posts have been moved during the Consultation process.

BASS hopes that the RSA community, whether BASS members or not, will make written representation. BASS believes individual letters, no matter how short, are  far more influential than petitions. Letters can focus on as many or as few issues as you wish, but the three most crucial messages are:

1. That no exemptions for trawled bass should be made because such exemptions will undermine the purpose of the proposals

2. That the original objective – development of a sustainable recreational bass fishery as a tourism driver – should be adhered to since this provides the best societal value from the public sea bass resource

3. That harmonisation of sea bass legislation across the island of Ireland  is highly desirable.

The following is a template for your letter, and can be amended to include your own words, which will, as said before, achieve greater impact.

Dear Minister or Committee Clerk

I write regarding the DARDNI 2010 Consultation on the proposals to replicate bass management legislation, as exists in the Republic of Ireland, across Northern Ireland. I am encouraged by the conclusions but feel there has been an apparent change to the whole purpose of the original proposal.

It was my understanding that the original intention of the proposal was to harmonise bass legislation with that in Southern Ireland thereby having the ability to further develop a sustainable, valuable recreational sea angling sector as a tourism driver.

This proposal will be undermined if any exemptions are made regarding commercial fishing and the idea of developing a commercial bass fishery, as and when stocks improve.

Why have you included this in your proposal? No mention was made of this in the original consultation process. I feel that as a recreation sea angler I deserve an answer to this question. Your own document included the wording ‘Prohibition of fishing for bass by any means other than rod and line’ and ‘Prohibition on the retention on board of bass by any UK sea fishing vessel within the Northern Ireland zone.’

The inclusion of the words ‘could be reviewed’ in paragraph 30 of the Review completely undermines the spirit of the original proposal. Justify this to me.

Yours Sincerely 

Letters should be sent to both the Minister and the Committee.

Contact details are:
Minister Michelle O’Neil.
Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development,
Dundonald House,
Upper Newtownards Rd.,
BT4 3SB.

Committee Clerk,
Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development,
Room 412,
Parliament Building,

If possible copies should also be sent to:

Northern Ireland Tourist Board,
59 North Street,

Loughs Agency,
22 Victoria Road,
BT47 2AB

BASS response.

Dear Minister,

Re: The Consultation on proposals to implement legislation for capture/retention of bass in NI so as to harmonise with existing legislation in Southern Ireland.

It has been bought to my attention that the long awaited decision (Consultation period ended August last year) is available at:

and it is the outcome of these deliberations that I write about.

We are of course very pleased that the Dept. has concluded that the 2 bass bag limit per day should go ahead and that the closed season 15th May to 15th June be adopted.

We are also pleased that the Dept. supports the proposal for a general prohibition on sale of bass, a prohibition of fishing for bass with any other metier than rod & line (incl. handline) and a prohibition on retention on board of bass by any licensed vessel.

As one of the lead organisations for recreational sea anglers who are interested in bass, we will be pleased to broadcast these results across Europe and have no doubt that Northern Ireland will be added to those destinations that are already regarded as worthwhile to visit for bass angling. There are hundreds of thousands of sea anglers in Europe who regard bass as their favourite species to target.

We are however perplexed that in respect of the last three measures, it is proposed to exempt trawlers.

The rationale appears to be a concern about discards and the idea that commercial landings are the only available option for stock assessments.

The document draws attention to the very low numbers of bass being landed commercially in NI – 17 kilos in 2009.  The very low quantities of bass being caught commercially in NI are also detailed in the RIA that accompanied the original announcement of the Consultation in early 2010.

Given the thousands of tonnes of fish that are annually discarded in UK waters, the Department’s concerns about as little as 17 kilos of bass being discarded annually seems a little exaggerated. It is not at all certain that the current debate in respect of discards and the 2012 Common Fisheries Policy reform will result in a total ban on discards. One key issue is the possibility that a proportion of discards, under some circumstances, do survive. Bass are a hardy species, unlike some pelagic species, and a proportion of the very low numbers of bass that are captured by NI trawlers, may survive if returned.

The departments conclusions make the entirely valid points that commercial trawl bass catches are “small and infrequent”  and are taken ‘offshore waters whereas sea bass tend to be located in the inshore zone.��  Yet despite the foregoing, the department holds these catches out as the only means available for stock assessment purposes.

With respect, we suggest that such a profile of haphazard commercial landings is most definitely not suitable for stock assessment purposes. If the NI authorities wish to monitor bass stocks, a simple logbook system for recreational anglers who fish the inshore zone, is a far superior method. We would be pleased to provide you with information on how such a scheme might operate.

Reports of wild bass in the supply chain (fishmongers, restaurant etc)  that might initiate enquiries into the illegal capture and marketing of bass (where no import documentation is provided), facilitates enquiries in the Republic which is why, when commercial interests in the Republic recently tried to have their existing legislation  modified so as to allow trawl catches to be legally landed, Inland Fisheries Ireland   opposed any relaxation that would allow commercial landings of bass because of the difficulties such action would create for enforcement. In NI, any wild bass on sale will simply be passed off as originating from trawlers. This ‘loop hole’ will make enforcement all the more difficult.

The most worrying aspect of the latest deliberations by the department however is the idea outlined in para 25 that “If the stock were to grow significantly the measures restricting commercial fishing could be reviewed.”

The original purpose of these proposals included:

“Sea Bass is important to our angling community and is considered a prize fishery by this group and sea angling for Sea Bass could provide an additional opportunity for the development of angling within some parts of our waters and could enhance income to our coastal communities through chartered fishing trips for both local and European fishers and an increase in angling tourism.”

The RIA included information that Recreational Sea Angling in NI is already valued at £7.4 million and if sport fishing for bass (Europe’s most treasured sea angling species) in NI can be developed, and it most certainly would if stocks of bass improve, the best possible return from the public sea bass fishery resource is without question using it as a tourism driver. In other parts of the globe where stocks of marine species have flourished, levels of recreational sea angling for those species have increased directionally proportional to the improvement in stocks and in the case of striped bass on the east coast of the USA, their coastal economy had benefited from a seven fold increase in both stocks and economic impacts between 1985 and 1996. Even a very modest increase to the existing £7.4 million recreational sea angling spend  would absolutely dwarf any economic impacts from using any improvement to NI bass stocks for commercial fishing.

Before we broadcast the results of the DARDNI sea bass Consultation, could you please respond to the two key issues that we know will be of major concern to the recreational sea angling community – 1) how enforcement will be achieved with the presence of legal wild bass in the supply chain and 2) an explanation of why initially these measures appeared to be driven by a desire to achieve greater levels of sea angling tourism but now appear to be directed at improving bass stocks with a view to establishment of a commercial fishery.

Yours sincerely,
I Misselbrook

cc. Northern Ireland Tourist Board, 59 North Street, Belfast. BT1 1NB
Loughs Agency, 22 Victoria Road, Londonderry, BT47 2AB

This entry was written by john.morgan, posted on 6 November 2011 at 9:41 pm, filed under News and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

New angling festival is launched

Local groups, including Sussex Angling, are launching a new angling initiative in Bexhill – the Rother Angling Festival.

There are is a lot of work to be done (and money to be raised) before it becomes a relaity but this, as the text from the press release below states, could be a really exciting new development for anglers. More on this in due course.

Sea angling poised to become big business in Sussex tourismSea angling could become an even bigger tourism draw on a 15-mile stretch of the Sussex coast after local anglers and the district council announced a new fishing festival and a voluntary code of conduct for angling.

Earlier in the year Rother District Council talked to local anglers and businesses and decided on the code instead of amendments to byelaws to ensure all beach users could enjoy the sea all-year round.

This spirit of cooperation has now also led to the two organisations creating the first Bexhill Sea Fishing Festival in September next year.

The code of conduct for anglers was agreed by Rother’s cabinet on Monday (7 November). Councillor Martin Kenward said it would be one of the first produced jointly by a council and local anglers and clearly underlined how anglers and the Council had been working together.

“Rother and its sea angling community will be seen to be leading the way in good practice,” he added.

The fishing festival is a direct outgrowth of the agreement with the anglers.

“It will send the message that Rother is angling-friendly,” said Councillor Kenward who is the  lead councillor for culture, sport and tourism.

The nine-day festival (September 15 – 23) will include five open competitions for beach and boat anglers including one with one for angling kayakers, one of the fastest growing water sports in England.

There will be an open boat competition, a five-day competition for beach anglers to catch specific fish species, a one-day beach competition  and a hunt for the best bass caught from the beach.

Stalls on Bexhill seafront’s newly built park and exhibition space will give fish preparation and cooking demonstrations and sell fish dishes. Individuals and families will be encouraged to try sea angling through coaching clinics.

The sea angling code of conduct which will be posted on beaches throughout Rother next year will ask anglers to:

*Respect all other beach users’ space and safety*Fish elsewhere if the beach is crowded or people are swimming

*Use a shock leader, check all around before casting and keep rigs out of reach

*Take all rubbish away including unwanted tackle and bait*Only take fish to be eaten and carefully place other fish back in the sea

*If anglers clean their catches please take the waste off the beach

*Be considerate to local residents when parking or leaving late at night

For details please contact Steve Hanks at Hook, Line and Sinker, telephone 01424 733 211 e-mail stevehanks100@msn.

Angling Trust NewsThursday 10th November 2011
For immediate release.
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To view this email in your web browser click HERE.
Southern IFCA To Look Again At Raising Bass Minimum Landing Size
The Southern Inshore Fishery and Conservation Authority’s Technical and Advisory committee (TAC) will be discussing the benefits to the region of increasing the minimum landing size for bass in the region which covers Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
The Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society, with support from the Angling Trust,
will be leading the call to raise the minimum landing size of bass to 48cm
The meeting, on Thursday November 17th, is open to all members of the public and will be held at Bournemouth Town Hall. The TAC will then report to the full Southern IFCA committee at their next public meeting at 2.00pm on Thursday 15th December in the Council Chamber, Poole Civic Centre. The full committee have the power to make a byelaw to change the bass MLS in its area. Again, this meeting is open to all members of the public as observers.The Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society, with support from the Angling Trust, will be leading the call for the committee to raise the minimum landing size to 48cm – the size needed to ensure that a bass taken at any time of year should have spawned at least once. If you can, make sure you attend these meetings and show the local authority the level of support there is for these proposals from anglers.For more information visit and contact the Angling Trust please email or call 0844 77 00 616 (Option 1) Help support Angling’s representative body and our work fighting for anglers, fish and fishing by clicking HEREto forward this email to a friend or colleague.Tweet this  Like this on FacebookTo view this email in your web browser click HERE.Picture Credit: Bass picture © Cefas.

Trials show fishermen can drastically reduce discards

Published:  07 November, 2011


The dreadful waste of thousands of tonnes of dead fish being thrown back into the sea every day could be stopped if fishermen are required to count all the fish they catch as part of their quota, pioneering UK trials have shown.

Published today, the report shows that fishermen taking part in the UK’s Catch Quota trials have stopped throwing away fish.

Its findings add weight to the UK Government’s calls for drastic reform of Europe’s broken and wasteful Common Fisheries Policy.

Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said: “At the moment European policy allows fishermen to catch an unlimited about of fish, provided they don’t bring more than their quota back to port. This gives them no choice but to throw thousands of tonnes of perfectly edible fish back into the sea every day.

This is a disgrace, it’s no good for the future of our fish stocks and no good for fishermen trying to make a living.
“The UK Government is clear that the Common Fisheries policy is broken and needs drastic reform.

We came forward with a practical solution of counting what they catch not what they land, and now we’ve shown that it works.

“This evidence will be invaluable as we continue to fight for radical reform of this outdated and wasteful European policy.

The UK is leading the way and the rest of Europe needs to step up and follow our example.”
Under current European Commission rules fishing boats are given quotas for landing different types of fish in a specific area.

If they go over their allowance they can continue to fish as long as they don’t land any more of that quota fish – leading to perfectly edible fish being thrown overboard.

Catch Quota trials began in the UK in 2010 and were expanded in early 2011 to include English fishermen catching West Channel sole as well as cod in the North Sea.

Boats taking part have to land all of the fish of these species that they catch so they all count against their quota.

Once the quota is used up they have to stop fishing completely.

Onboard monitoring, including CCTV cameras, checks whether they are following the rules.

Trial manager Julian Roberts, from the Marine Management Organisation who manage the trial on behalf of Defra, said: “Fishermen in the trial are demonstrating that they can avoid catching small, low value fish which might otherwise be discarded.

“They tend to be more selective in choosing their fishing grounds and introducing better gear that targets only larger fish.

This can only be good news for the fishing industry’s sustainable future.”

The report, published today by the Marine Management Organisation, shows that fishermen involved in the trials are discarding less than one per cent of the cod and sole they catch.

This is far less than the 21 per cent average across the EU for North Sea cod and the estimated nine per cent of sole discarded by all English and Welsh vessels in the Western Channel.

Catches of undersized fish in the trial are also low, suggesting that boats are fishing more selectively.

The UK will work to secure additional quota in this year’s negotiations on total allowable catches and quotas so that trials can be expanded to enable more vessels to participate and to test the system in other fisheries.

This evidence will be used as the UK pushes to improve proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy put forward by the European Commission earlier this year.

The UK is fighting for a more transparent and decentralised approach where fishermen themselves help solve problems such as discards, rather than one-size-fits-all regulation.

The full report is available at


latest news»

My last hurrah – fishing WA!

11 Aug 2011

By Martin Salter

IN August last year, once it became known that I was Britain’s former Parliamentary Angling Spokesman, I was asked to give evidence to the New South Wales Parliamentary Inquiry into Recreational Fishing on the controversial issue of angling bans in Marine Parks. Instead of enjoying the relative obscurity of a fishing sabbatical Down Under, I found myself thrust into the limelight once again and agreed to prepare a report on the challenges facing recreational fishing in Australia. My report, Keep Australia Fishing was published in April and received a positive reception from industry leaders in both Australia and New Zealand.

Now I don’t regret plunging back into the confused world of recreational fishing politics for one moment. It was a way by which I could put something back into the sport we all love and say thank you for the great hospitality and friendship I received from Aussie fishos, not to mention some pretty fine fish that were put my way. The bulk of my experiences, both fishing and political, may have been forged on the other side of the world but it is striking how similar are the challenges and the issues.

Given that Australia has three million plus anglers in a population of a little over 20 million, it struck me as surprising that recreational fishing hasn’t been given greater attention by the two main political parties until now. The last minute federal election statement by Julia Gillard playing down the prospects of further extensions to the Marine Parks programme clearly came too late to prevent a voter backlash against a number of sitting Labor members. Australian anglers have viewed with understandable trepidation the onward march of the Greens who have made no secret of their desire to close 30 per cent or more of territorial waters to all forms of fishing. Shedloads of votes are now going to the newly formed Fishing and Lifestyle and Shooters and Fishers parties.

Not that I think that special interest minority parties are the way forward in the long term. As a protest vote, fair enough, but there is a risk of marginalising a sport and a lifestyle whose interests should be front and centre of mainstream politics. The fact that people in New Zealand, Queensland and New South Wales even feel the need to form and vote for specific pro-fishing parties is, in my view, an admission of failure by the political establishment and an expression of frustration and powerlessness by angling community.

This is in marked contrast to the USA and in the UK where all the main political parties readily signed up to a joint Manifesto for Angling produced by the countries’ national peak angling body, The Angling Trust, and where anglers themselves are engaged in the process of designating Marine Conservation Zones and developing policy.

I can’t believe we are still arguing the toss over the principle of a fishing licence. We gave up the idea on the idea of the “inexhaustible sea” free to all (including foreign trawlers) about a hundred years ago when we adopted territorial waters, bag and size limits and quotas. We accept that this a resource that we can screw up or that we can manage, protect an enhance for future generations. This means employing professionals, creating revenue streams and delivering powerful advocacy on behalf of rec fishers. The days of the well meaning amateur are long gone. Welcome to the world of users pays/user benefits and to the political reality that No Pay = No Say.

I like to think I’ve put together a major piece of work on how the recreational fishing sector can get itself “fit for purpose” and better able to punch its weight politically in order to face down the very real threats to our sport. These are not just from extreme greens, dumb politicians or even marine parks. For angling to survive and prosper we need improved water quality and habitat and an end to harmful farming practices and the dumping of pesticides and chemicals in our rivers and estuaries. Unsustainable commercial fishing methods must also be challenged and we need to promote recreational fishing havens and rec only species. We need professional advocacy part funded through a ring fenced licence levy and most importantly of all, we must redouble our efforts to encourage young people to forsake their computer games for a day on the water.

It’s all there in my Keep Australia Fishing report which looks at how these challenges have been successfully met elsewhere and applies them to the Australian context. You’ll find  more information on the report and can download it here.

Sadly, I’ve had to return to the riot torn streets of Britain but have agreed to do what I can to help the cause of angling in both countries. Before I left I was pleased to get the opportunity to visit WA to help out with their marine park campaign and to sample some of the great fishing that is to be had over there. My trips out with Al Bevan of Shikari Charters for the mighty samson fish and big snapper of Rottnest and with Bernie Vale on the Mahi Mahi 11 for the Ningaloo Reef sailfish were up there with the best experiences I’ve had in your wonderful country.


I hope to be back soon and in the meantime will be keeping you abreast of some of the important issues from around the world that affect our sport through a regular blog courtesy of Mr Harnwell of this parish.

Stay lucky!

He’s Back!  :)

: World’s oceans in ‘shocking’ decline

Thanks to the BBC for this item. To see the full article, including pictures, follow the link:

20 June 2011 Last updated at 13:24

World’s oceans in ‘shocking’ decline
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News
Coral reefs are subject to “multiple stressors” that could destroy many within a human generation

The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists.

In a new report, they warn that ocean life is “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”.

They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognised.

The impacts, they say, are already affecting humanity.

The panel was convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), and brought together experts from different disciplines, including coral reef ecologists, toxicologists, and fisheries scientists.

Its report will be formally released later this week.

“The findings are shocking,” said Alex Rogers, IPSO’s scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University.

“As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.

“We’ve sat in one forum and spoken to each other about what we’re seeing, and we’ve ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we’re seeing changes that are happening faster than we’d thought, or in ways that we didn’t expect to see for hundreds of years.”

These “accelerated” changes include melting of Arctic sea ice and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, sea level rise, and release of methane trapped in the sea bed.

But more worrying than this, the team noted, are the ways in which different issues act synergistically to increase threats to marine life.

Some pollutants, for example, stick to the surfaces of tiny plastic particles that are now found in the ocean bed.

This increases the amounts of these pollutants that are consumed by bottom-feeding fish.

Plastic particles also assist the transport of algae from place to place, increasing the occurrence of toxic algal blooms – which are also caused by the influx of nutrient-rich pollution from agricultural land.

In a wider sense, ocean acidification, warming, local pollution and overfishing are acting together to increase the threat to coral reefs – so much so that three-quarters of the world’s reefs are at risk of severe decline.

Carbon deposits

Life on Earth has gone through five “mass extinction events” caused by events such as asteroid impacts; and it is often said that humanity’s combined impact is causing a sixth such event.

Some marine fish are already fished way beyond their limits – and may also be affected by other threats

The IPSO report concludes that it is too early to say definitively.

But the trends are such that it is likely to happen, they say – and far faster than any of the previous five.

“What we’re seeing at the moment is unprecedented in the fossil record – the environmental changes are much more rapid,” Professor Rogers told BBC News.

“We’ve still got most of the world’s biodiversity, but the actual rate of extinction is much higher [than in past events] – and what we face is certainly a globally significant extinction event.”

The report also notes that previous mass extinction events have been associated with trends being observed now – disturbances of the carbon cycle, and acidification and hypoxia (depletion of oxygen) of seawater.

Levels of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans are already far greater than during the great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago (during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), it concludes.

Blue planet

The report’s conclusions will be presented at UN headquarters in New York this week, when government delegates begin discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.

In the long run, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut to conserve ocean life, the report concludes

IPSO’s immediate recommendations include:

  • stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation
  • mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste
  • making sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon dioxide levels are now so high, it says, that ways of pulling the gas out of the atmosphere need to be researched urgently – but not using techniques, such as iron fertilisation, that lead to more CO2 entering the oceans.

“The challenges for the future of the ocean are vast; but unlike previous generations, we know what now needs to happen,” said Dan Laffoley, marine chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas and an adviser to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“The time to protect the blue heart of our planet is now.”


UK ‘should be made to restock fishing waters’

By Lewis Smith

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The UK and other European countries must be forced by law to restock their seas to give the fishing industry a long-term future, the European Fisheries Commissioner demanded yesterday.

Click HERE to view graphic (131k jpg)

Maria Damanaki told an audience of ministers and environmentalists in London that fish stocks are so depleted there needs to be a legal obligation to improve numbers.

Britain and other nations signed a pledge in Johannesburg in 2002 to restock overfished areas and maintain healthy marine populations by 2015, but many targets look set to be missed.

The deal was non-binding and Ms Damanaki believes that if the targets are to be met, EU countries need to be legally obliged to meet them.

Addressing the Globe World Oceans Day Forum, held at Selfridges department store, she warned that Europe was years behind the US and other major countries in managing its fisheries sustainably.

Rapid and far-reaching reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was needed if the UK and the rest of the EU were to catch up, she added.

The commissioner said: “The US, Australia, New Zealand and Norway are already way ahead of us in adopting modern, sustainable policies that deliver good results for the industry and the oceans.

“Though we import 42 per cent of the global trade in fish, Europe is a big fishing power. We simply cannot afford to be so far behind on sustainability.”

Ms Damanaki wants to see stocks allowed to recover and for fishermen to be allowed to catch only sustainable quantities. Fishing quotas are supposed to ensure stocks remain healthy but ministers routinely override scientific advice and set quota levels higher than they ought to.

The commissioner added: “In the EU, too many stocks are overfished and catches are only a fraction of what they used to be in the 90s and are still dipping year after year.”

Without action, stocks would continue to fall – and declining catches would cause job losses among fishermen, processors, transport companies and retailers, she warned.

In calling for reform of the CFP, Ms Damanaki wants the UK and other EU countries to be given more control over how their fisheries are run instead of being dictated to by Brussels. Europe’s “obese” fishing fleets, she insisted, must be reduced further.

“If we get it right, Europeans will have a more ample choice of fresh fish – wild and farmed fish,” she said.

“More fish available to consumers means higher intakes of essential fatty acids, which are necessary for good brain and heart functioning. Brain and heart-related diseases are blowing up our healthcare budgets and in the long run, fish consumption can contribute to reduce the pressure.”

The reforms may include halting the practice of discarding fish at sea, demanded by the Fish Fight campaign led by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Ms Damanaki said she would put forward more detailed proposals over the summer.

UK Fisheries minister Richard Benyon said halting the “scandalous” practice of discards would be one of the key elements of a reformed CFP.

He said: “Reform… will not be seen as credible unless we deliver a way to eliminate discarded fish and I will be doing all I can to deliver the ambitious reform that the Government and the public want to see.

“Europe has a hugely important role to play in the global governance of fish stocks, so we must make sure that the CFP pursues the same principles of sustainability and fairness outside its waters too.”

Fishing in numbers

72 per cent of Europe’s fish stocks are believed to be overexploited, compared with 32 per cent worldwide.

20 per cent of European fisheries are being plundered so intensively the stock could die out.

3 Some parts of Europe’s fishing fleet are estimated to be three times the size needed to catch the available quota.

17kg The average person’s annual consumption of fish worldwide. In Europe it is 22.2kg.

42 per cent of the world’s fish imports were bought by Europe in 2008 – costing £27.8bn.

30 per cent is the cut in the European bluefin tuna quota since 2006, in response to shortages in the Mediterranean.


Details of the demersal fishing surveys to be carried out in the Irish Sea
Wind Power Fishing Survey March 2011

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Begins National Survey of the Economic Contributions of Saltwater Angling

Proposed survey of economic benefits of saltwater angling

Balanced Seas Newsletter February 2011

Balanced Seas Newsletter