Volunteer divers from the award winning charity Ghost Fishing UK are heading to Shetland for a week-long mission to help the fishing community clean up the islands.
Responding to reports from local fishermen of giant gill nets, mostly non native to the UK, catching all kinds of wildlife as well as wasting fish stocks, the team is heading north to help tackle the problem.
Shetland fishermen, concerned about the environmental impact of unmonitored landings, discarded gill nets and an increase in harm to wildlife and unintended bycatch, have been protesting about the gill nets which are alleged to be used then dumped by foreign vessels.
Fishermen from the islands have been pulling in these huge gill nets, some with rocks inside to weigh them down, with their own nets and are then left with the problem and the cost of disposal.
They contacted Christine Grosart, trustee of Ghost Fishing UK, to see if anything could be done to help.
She said; “I was shocked to receive some pretty harrowing images of enormous gill nets, dumped at sea, full of life including birds. We have a good track record of working in Orkney so figured Shetland should not be a problem for our team.”
The Ghost Fishing UK charity has been running since 2015 and operates with volunteers all over the UK, cleaning up lost fishing gear and recycling it wherever possible. The charity is unique in that it works with the fishing community to tackle the problem and this has changed the landscape of ocean conservation in the UK.
“Since we won the Fishing News Awards a couple of years ago, attitudes have slowly been changing” Christine explains “It is no longer ‘us and them’ when it comes to divers, conservationists and fishermen. We all want the same thing; a healthy, thriving ocean. These large gill nets are unfair, completely unmonitored and not only impact our fish stocks for our own fishery, but are causing havoc with our wildlife. Our fishermen just don’t use them, so we are sure they are not native to our islands.”
The charity will be in Shetland from 6th – 11th August aboard MV Valhalla, and is looking for volunteers each evening to help with sorting recovered ghost gear and cleaning it, ready for recycling back on the mainland. Any recovered creels will be given back to the fishermen and the charity is slowly receiving reports of lost gear.
They are appealing to fishermen to tell them if they know of any lost fishing gear in the 35 metre depth range.
Arlene Robertson from Fishing Forward, a pressure group with well over 3000 members, said “We are appalled at what is going on around Shetland/UK waters. We contacted and welcomed Ghost Fishing UK to Shetland to help highlight the truth. Shetland fishermen have been gathering photographic evidence of the tons of deliberately discarded fishing gear and domestic waste from foreign owned fishing boats which is desperately harmful for the environment and to wildlife.”
Ghost Fishing UK are hosting an outreach evening on Thursday 10th August at Shetland Museum, Lerwick and tickets have run out.
“It’s a full house” Christine says “We are thrilled that we are going to have a mix of public, fishermen, divers and conservationists all in one place, working towards the same thing. We are hosting talks from Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, Fishing Forward UK and of course providing updates on the project ourselves. It’s going to be a groundbreaking evening.”
Several local companies have offered assistance to the charity, including Northlink Ferries and DFDS Haulage on Shetland. The charity has been crowdfunding to raise money to cover the cost of the boat and equipment and are almost on target for £20,000.
The team is planning on sending a couple of their members out on a fishing boat for the day to get a real feel for how the industry works and they are delighted in the assistance given by Fishing Forward and two boats have offered to take the volunteers out.
Arlene says “Fishing Forward UK and affiliated fishermen concur with Ghost Fishing UK in their quest for a clean, healthy, thriving ocean for us all to enjoy. Shetland fishermen want to invest in sustainable fishing; after all, it is their heritage, livelihood and future.”
You can follow the project on all social media platforms and visiting www.ghostfishing.co.uk
Project SIARC through to the finals of The National Lottery Awards
Project SIARC has been nominated alongside 16 other projects from across the UK to be named National Lottery Project of the Year.
The marine environment in Wales is teeming with life; beneath the often-murky waters are little understood species of shark, skate and ray (elasmobranchs) of conservation importance.
Project SIARC is catalysing links between fishers, researchers, communities and government to collaborate and safeguard elasmobranchs and support a green recovery in Wales.
“We are so grateful for this nomination – it’s thanks to all of our wonderful communities, partners and volunteers working with us to help safeguard and celebrate sharks, skates and rays in Wales”, commented Project SIARC Technical Specialist and regular Scubaverse contributor Jake Davies.
For more information about Project SIARC, visit https://www.projectsiarc.com/.
Silent Reef Keepers: The Fight to Save the Caribbean Reef Shark
The Kingdom of the Netherlands will ask for increased protection for the Caribbean reef shark during next month’s Conference of Parties for the Cartagena Convention (COPs) on Aruba. Caribbean reef sharks play a critical role in maintaining a healthy reef ecosystem and building resilience within the oceans. This increased protection is critical for ensuring a sustainable future for this iconic species.
The Caribbean Sea is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and a dazzling array of marine life. Among the charismatic inhabitants of this underwater paradise is the Caribbean Reef Shark (Carcharhinus perezii), a species that plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of coral reef ecosystems. In the Dutch Caribbean, these apex predators face mounting threats, but there is hope on the horizon. At the upcoming Conference of Parties for the Cartagena Convention (COPs), the Kingdom of the Netherlands will seek increased protection for these magnificent creatures by listing this species on Annex III of the SPAW Protocol. Annex III includes plant and animal species which require additional protection to ensure this species is able to adequately recover their populations in the Wider Caribbean Region.
Caribbean reef sharks thrive in warm, tropical waters of the Caribbean region, with a distribution range that stretches from Florida to Brazil. This species is one of the most encountered reef shark species throughout the whole Caribbean Sea. Growing up to 3m (9.8ft) in length, this shark is one of the largest apex predators in the reef ecosystem and is at the top of the marine food web, having only a few natural predators.
In addition to being of great economic value, as shark diving is a major draw for divers from around the world, this species is also critical for maintaining balance within the reef ecosystem. Their presence helps regulate the population of smaller prey species, which in turn, prevents overgrazing on seagrass beds and coral reefs and eliminates sick or weak fish from the population. This balance is essential for maintaining the health and diversity of the entire coral reef.
Despite their ecological and economic significance, Caribbean reef sharks in the Caribbean face numerous threats that have led to a population reduction estimated to be between 50–79% over the past 29 years. In the (Dutch) Caribbean this is mainly caused by:
Habitat Degradation: The degradation of coral reefs and seagrass beds due to climate change, pollution, and coastal development has a direct impact on the availability of prey for these sharks. Loss of habitat reduces their ability to find food and shelter.
Overfishing: Overfishing poses one of the most immediate threats to Caribbean reef sharks. They are often caught incidentally in commercial fisheries, where fishermen are targeting other species, or intentionally, where they are sought after for their fins, used in shark fin soup.
A Call for Increased Protection
There are different organizations and individuals working to protect sharks and their habitats in the Dutch Caribbean. A significant milestone was the establishment of protected areas such as the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary between Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius. Another milestone was in 2019 when the Dutch government adopted an International Shark Strategy. The strategy sets out which protective and management actions for sharks and rays are to be taken by the government in all seas and oceans where the Netherlands has influence (including the Dutch Caribbean). Additional efforts are still needed to create more marine protected areas, enhance enforcement, reduce pollution in the ocean, and promote sustainable fishing practices. These species know no (political) boundaries and their protection requires broadscale conservation efforts within the Dutch Caribbean and beyond.
The Caribbean reef shark is a species of paramount importance to the (Dutch) Caribbean’s coral reefs. With the extra protection being requested during the next COPS meeting in Aruba, there is hope that this species will have a healthy future. By recognizing their ecological significance and the challenges they face, we can work together to ensure a brighter future for the Caribbean Reef Shark in the Dutch Caribbean and beyond.
The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) supports science communication and outreach in the Dutch Caribbean region by making nature-related scientific information more widely available through amongst others the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database, DCNA’s news platform BioNews and the press. This article contains the results from several scientific studies but the studies themselves are not DCNA studies. No rights can be derived from the content. DCNA is not liable for the content and the in(direct) impacts resulting from publishing this article.
Photo + photo credit: Jim Abernethy-all rights reserved
For more information, please contact: research@DCNAnature.org
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