fisheries

Brexit Vote Will Likely Cause Problems for UK Fishers

Fishers were part of the “Leave” push, but it may not work out as they’d hoped.

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in last week’s “Brexit” referendum will have profound effects on how fisheries are managed in both the UK and the EU. For now, it’s unclear exactly what those effects will be. But most experts agree that leaving the EU will be bad for both fishermen and fish stocks.

“It will be complicated and probably quite disastrous,” says Michel Kaiser, a marine conservation ecologist at Bangor University in Wales. Read more in Hakai.

Tentacled sea creatures are taking over the Earth’s oceans

Octopuses and their tentacled brethren are taking over the seas, as ocean temperatures climb and humans snaffle up their natural predators.

Zoe Doubleday, a marine biologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, and her colleagues were studying an iconic local species, the giant Australian cuttlefish, which had been in decline for several years.

Doubleday wanted to see whether it was part of a larger cyclical trend in global populations, so she looked at data from surveys and from cephalopod fisheries and cephalopod bycatch in finfish fisheries between 1953 and 2013.

To her surprise she found a consistent increase in cephalopod populations over the past six decades, in species from all over the world and in every habitat, from the deep ocean to the near-shore shallows. Read more in New Scientist.

Fish for Food

Exploring ways to get fish on the table in Bolivia.

People in Bolivia don’t eat much fish — among South American nations it has the lowest per-capita consumption — despite having a large number of lakes and rivers.

But local, sustainably sourced fish could be a good source of protein and help reduce food insecurity, as well as provide a new source of income for poor, rural populations. So the International Development Research Centre and Global Affairs Canada have teamed up with academics and NGOs in Canada and Bolivia on the Amazon Fish for Food project, which is trying to find ways to encourage the sustainable use of the country’s fish resources through fishing and aquaculture. Read more in Canadian Geographic.

The Ghosts of Fishers Past

Photo by Brian Owens

Photo by Brian Owens

Lost fishing gear keeps on doing the job it was designed for long after its owners are gone.

Lacuna is like most other humpback whales in the Atlantic Ocean. He overwinters in warm Caribbean waters—where humpbacks breed and give birth—and heads north in spring, toward colder waters to feast on the abundance of krill, copepods, and other tiny marine life.

For nearly two decades, Lacuna, recognizable by the unique pattern of black and white marks on the underside of his tail fluke, has beaten the same watery path from the southern Atlantic to the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada without incident, managing to avoid the dangers an animal his size might encounter. But last July when whale watchers spotted him in the bay, he was entangled in ropes—he had run afoul of fishing gear.

Although it was impossible to tell the origin of the gear Lacuna was hauling around, the whale’s plight highlighted a growing threat worldwide, abandoned or lost fishing gear that endangers marine life—ghost gear. Ghost gear does the job it was designed for: to catch marine animals. The problem is that it continues to catch fish, turtles, birds, and whales, for as long as the gear exists. Even worse, as animals die in lost traps or nets, they act as bait to attract other marine life and the cycle continues for years or even centuries.

Around 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear is lost or abandoned worldwide each year, accounting for around 10 percent of all marine litter. Ghost gear entangles and kills an estimated 136,000 whales, seals, and other marine mammals annually, and likely millions more animals with lower profiles: fish, crustaceans, turtles, and birds. Read more in Hakai.

When Good Fish Die Young

Rising temperatures are suppressing survival rates for young fish.

Climate change is making fish die young. Over the past six decades, the proportion of fish that survive to adulthood has been going down, by three percent per decade on average, according to a new analysis of global fish stock data.

Compiling statistics on changing fish stocks for 127 species of fish in 39 different marine regions, ecology doctoral student candidate Greg Britten calculated that the bulk of the increase in fish juvenile mortality can be attributed to rising ocean temperatures and the declining abundance of phytoplankton. Read more in Hakai.

A Fishy Plan

Canada’s new government says it’s going to expand the country’s marine protected areas. Scientists worry the government is cutting corners to hit its goal.

Canada has a long way to go in protecting its oceans. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity wants 10 percent of the world’s marine and coastal environments protected by 2020. So far, Canada has set aside just 1.3 percent.

With Canada’s change in federal government this past October, meeting the UN’s marine protection target has leapt to the top of the priority list for Hunter Tootoo, Canada’s new minister of fisheries and oceans. In his mandate letter for the new minister, Prime Minister Trudeau listed—as his very first line item—the goal of protecting five percent of Canada’s coastal waters by 2017, and the full ten percent by 2020.

That’s good news, says Rodolphe Devillers, a marine geographer at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. But he says that, in their enthusiasm, the government seems to be looking to cut corners. Read more in Hakai.

Blood in the water

Proteins from salmon blood can stop bleeding and alleviate pain.

In pens and hatcheries along the coasts of New Brunswick, Canada, and Maine, USA, young salmon are growing into adults that will soon grace dinner plates around the world. But these fish have much more to offer than just their delicious pink meat. If on-going research pans out, medicines derived from salmon blood could help save human lives and, possibly, mitigate chronic pain. Read more in Hakai.

Fish fight

In Maine, indigenous tribes have severed ties with the state.

There are no border guards when you cross the bridge from the tiny village of Princeton, Maine, to the Indian Township Reservation, but according to the Passamaquoddy Tribe who live there, you have entered sovereign territory.

Last week, the Passamaquoddy and the nearby Penobscot Nation both withdrew their representatives from the Maine State Legislature, citing a breakdown in relations with the state government. Read more in Hakai.