Scroll down below video for latest update posted 05 Jan 2013 and join the discussion too.
Original post: 29 Dec 2012
It seems our seabirds are at risk from careless fishermen as well as pollution from plastic bags.
This disturbing and incredibly sad video of birds (auks) struggling to free themselves from fishing nets on 28 December 2012 was posted on Youtube by the Portland Bird Observatory in Dorset, England. Martin Cade, the observatory warden, wrote:
We’ve alerted the authorities to incidents like this in the past and although it appears there are guidelines that fishermen are asked to follow (setting nets late in the day and bringing them in soon after dawn, placing distraction markers on the nets etc) these are nothing more than advice on best practice and, sadly, are widely ignored.
(Post continues after video.)
How can we protect the marine environment and its wildlife from fishermen who don’t care about the impact of their actions? If fishermen won’t follow best practice guidelines do we need to make these guidelines into laws?
Update on 30 Dec 2012
I just wanted to thank everyone for helping share this terrible story or taking the time to view what I know is a distressing scene. I’ve tweeted various people in the media and BBC South Today news team have said they’ll look into it. Fingers crossed they will help publicise the irresponsible actions of some fishermen and encourage the government to make the guidelines into rules which have to be followed. Nets are also responsible for injuring and killing whales, dolphins, turtles and other marine mammals. The Black Fish conservation organisation is currently preparing for a campaign against illegal drift nets in the Mediterranean Sea. (They’ve nearly reached their target but need a few more donations if you can spare any cash.)
Maya Plass, marine and coastal ecology expert, Springwatch contributor and patron of Dorset-based charity, MARINElife, told me that the next MARINElife newsletter will feature an article about the issues with fishing nets. Maya also sent me a link to this article about fish illegally caught in nets and washed up on a Devon beach a few weeks ago.
Contact the Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries
If you’d like to let the Minister know about your concerns regarding nets, you can contact him using the following methods:
Richard Benyon MP
Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
Update on 02 Jan 2013
Unfortunately, BBC South News decided not to run this story but said to let them know if it happens again. So if you see something like this happening in your area, take some photos and/or film if you can and get in touch with your local TV/radio news programmes and your local paper. The quicker you can do this the more chance that they will use the story. It’s unfortunate that this happened over Christmas and New Year when news programmes are often much shorter.
It is an unfortunate side of fishing but it is just one of those things.
The Dorset Echo ran this story on 31 Dec 2012 and I was shocked and very disappointed by the reaction quoted from the secretary of Weymouth and Portland Fisherman and Licensed Boatman Association, Andy Alcock who said seabirds are often discovered trapped in fishing nets and it’s just one of those things. On the same day The Daily Mail also posted this story on their website. If seabirds are often trapped in nets, then isn’t it time the fishing industry looked at the methods used and started to consider the negative impact they’re having on wildlife and the environment?
Update on 05 Jan 2013
“These birds are threatened in the UK. They have a very small breeding population. They are being trapped and disposed off without anybody being told.”
There has been more media coverage about with the Bournemouth Daily Echo writing about Paul Morton, former RSPB warden at the Arne nature reserve in Dorset, who has witnessed guillemots and razorbills drowning in nets off Studland beach. Paul is working to promote conservation in Poole Harbour and hopes to involve fishermen in discussions. If you’d like to get involved, please email Paul (email@example.com).
What to do if you see animals or birds in distress?
My friends at MARINElife advise that if you ever have any concerns about trapped or injured marine wildlife such as seals, cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) or seabirds note the place, the state of the tide and any injuries you can see without getting close. Then contact immediately British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 during office hours, or after 5pm on working days or at weekends or Bank Holidays call their out of hours number on 07787 433412. Alternatively you can call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.
Please save these numbers now into your mobile phone as you’ll never know when you might need them. Ask your friends and family to do the same.
How can you ensure the fish on your plate has been caught sustainably?
The Marine Conservation Society has a Good Fish Guide on its website. They also ran a Supermarket Survey in 2011 with The Co-operative and M&S (Marks & Spencer) coming out on top. MCS also have an informative Fishing Methods guide which describes different methods of fishing and the risk of bycatch. Can the use of fishing nets really be classed as sustainable fishing?
Fish2Fork’s website (available in Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland, UK and USA) has recommended restaurants and also gives you the opportunity to report restaurants who aren’t serving sustainable fish.
Mobile phone apps available to help you make a more ethical decisions when shopping for fish or eating out include:
- Good fish guide – iPhone app from the Marine Conservation Society
- Hugh’s fish fight – iPhone app from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s fish fight campaign which also includes recipes and Fish2Fork’s restaurant guide
Join the discussion
Have you seen anything like this before? If so, what did you do and have the authorities done anything about it? If you are a fish eater, has this video made you think about being careful to make sure your fish is caught sustainably or even taking fish off the menu completely? Can you recommend any ethical retailers of seafood and fish? Does the fact that eating fish could mean we’re eating our own rubbish due to our pollution of the oceans (see infographic) put you off including fish in your diet?
Thanks for reading and please let me know if you’ve contacted DEFRA or any other authorities about this and get a reply.
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