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Marine Life & Conservation

Charity shocked to discover drowned sea birds caught in ghost nets



The ocean conservation charity Ghost Fishing UK discovered four drowned sea birds, identified as cormorants, caught up in a lost fishing net in Lyme Bay.

The charity of volunteer scuba divers responds to reports of lost fishing gear known as ‘ghost gear’ from divers and fishermen, by surveying and then removing the lost gear which continues to fish, unseen.

Cormorants are common diving birds that dive beneath the waves to catch their food, but unfortunately can succumb to getting tangled in fishing nets.

Lost fishing gear is a global problem, with an estimated 640,000 lost into the oceans each year. Locally, it can have a significant impact on the local wildlife, ocean habitats and it’s not just fish that succumb to the hidden threat.

Fred Nunn, trustee, and operations officer for the charity explains: “We received reports from Jessica Hannah at Teign dive Centre of a gill net across the wreck of the Galicia, so we quickly put a team together. We were worried about the weather being near the end of season, but we found the net and the trapped animals.”

The divers soon came across four dead cormorants. The diving sea birds were tangled in a lost gill net which was strewn across the breadth of the wreck. The divers also came across a trapped pollack and Ballan wrasse which were both still alive and freed from the net. Edible crabs and lobsters were among the trapped sea life and in total, 11 animals were freed but another 8 had died in the ghost net.

The charity raises money from public donations and campaigns to clean up lost fishing gear from UK waters. This year Ghost Fishing UK won the Sustainability Award at the Fishing News Awards in Aberdeen for their work and cooperation with the fishing community.

Trustee and diver Christine Grosart said: “We are slowly gaining the trust of the fishing community, but we still have a long way to go. Our charity is not anti-fishing, and we want the fishing community to prosper, whilst maintaining a healthy ecosystem. We encourage engagement from the fishermen, and we really want them to tell us when they lose nets like this, so that we can remove them from the sea much sooner and stop the ghost fishing cycle in its tracks”.

Ghost Fishing UK has an online reporting system for both divers and fishermen to report any losses which they can do anonymously.

“In the case of lost strings of pots, we can often get these back to their owners,” Christine explains. “But in the case of nets, these are often too badly damaged to be used again, so we get them recycled where we can.”

It is generally accepted that fishing gear is not lost deliberately and is often the result of storms, snags on the seabed or being run over by other vessels.

Fishermen can report any lost nets to the charity here:

Jessica Hannah from Teign Diving Centre was very happy to welcome the charity for their first mission on board Seaquest:

“The Galicia is one of our most regularly used dive sites and is full of life. It was heart-breaking to find a ghost net hanging over the wreck and entangling everything that crossed its path – a real killer of a net.” Said Hannah.

“Having Ghost Fishing UK out to clear this away, we’re so thankful for their help with this. Great to know the net can’t harm anything else down there, and we’re all so pleased to have had such a professional organisation to sort it out.”

You can follow the work of Ghost Fishing UK on their YouTube Channel, blogs and across all social media platforms. All donations to the charity go directly into paying for dive boats so the volunteers can continue cleaning up even more ghost gear.

Marine Life & Conservation

The Big Shark Pledge: Shark Trust’s new campaign kicks off with a call for support



With the ink still drying on last week’s landmark listing of nearly 100 species of sharks on Appendix II of CITES, the Shark Trust insists that this is not the time for shark conservation to take a break. The UK-based NGO this week launches its biggest-ever concerted campaign to tackle the overfishing of oceanic sharks. They are calling on people across the world to join the call for stricter controls on high seas fisheries.

The Big Shark Pledge is at the heart of an ambitious set of campaign actions. Working to secure science-based catch limits on all sharks and rays affected by the international high seas fishing fleet. The pledge will build the largest campaigning community in shark and ray conservation history to support a raft of policy actions over the vital years ahead.

Many of our best known and much-loved sharks make their home on the high seas. In our shared ocean, these oceanic sharks and rays face a very real threat from a huge international fleet of industrial-scale fishing vessels. Research published in early 2021 confirmed that over three-quarters of oceanic sharks and rays are now at risk of extinction due to the destructive impact of overfishing. They have declined by 71% over the last 50 years.

The Shark Trust is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year and has a long history of securing positive changes for sharks, skates and rays. The Big Shark Pledge will build on the success of their NoLimits? campaign which underpinned landmark catch limits on Blue Sharks and Shortfin Mako in the North Atlantic.

While the listing of so many species on the CITES trade agreement is certainly a positive step, there remains a huge challenge in ensuring that sustainable practices are embedded in international fisheries.” says Shark Trust Director of conservation, Ali Hood. “Sharks on the high seas face extraordinary pressure from excessive fishing practices. This has to be addressed through international agreements such as those secured for Blues and makos.”

There is hope and a feeling of momentum in the shark conservation community. Just last week, in addition to the new CITES listings, the Shark Trust, working with partners in the Shark League, secured the first-ever international quota for South Atlantic Mako at ICCAT meeting in Portugal. The new campaign from the Shark Trust aims to push forwards from here, engaging a wave of support through the Big Shark Pledge to bolster policy action.

This will be a long-term international and collaborative effort. Forging a pathway to rebuild populations of high-seas sharks and rays. By putting science at the heart of shark conservation and fisheries management. And making the vital changes needed to set populations on the road to recovery.

Shark Trust CEO Paul Cox says of the Big Shark Pledge “It’s designed to give everyone who cares about the future of sharks the chance to add their voice to effective and proven conservation action. By adding their name to the Pledge, supporters will be given opportunities to apply pressure at key moments to influence change.

Click here to sign the Big Shark Pledge

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Gear News

Fourth Element X Sea Shepherd



This year on Black Friday, fourth element announced their new partnership with Sea Shepherd, encouraging people to move away from mindless purchasing and to opt-in to supporting something powerful.

For 40 years Sea Shepherd, a leading non-profit organisation, has been patrolling the high seas with the sole mission to protect and conserve the world’s oceans and marine wildlife. They work to defend all marine wildlife, from whales and dolphins, to sharks and rays, to fish and krill, without exception.

Inspired by Sea Shepherd’s mission, fourth element have created a collection of fourth element X Sea Shepherd limited edition products for ocean lovers and protectors, with 15% of every sale going to the Sea Shepherd fund to help continue to drive conservation efforts globally.

“Working with Sea Shepherd gives fourth element the opportunity to join forces with one of the largest active conservation organisations in the world to try to catalyse change in people’s attitudes and behaviour. Fourth Element’s products are designed, developed and packaged with the intention of minimising our impact on the ocean environment, and with this partnership, we will be supporting the work of Sea Shepherd, in particular in their work on dealing with the twin threats of Ghost fishing nets and plastic pollution.”

Jim Standing fourth element co-founder

Read fourth element’s Sea Shepherd Opinion Piece HERE

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