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New Good Fish Guide ratings spell trouble for trawled cuttlefish

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The latest update of the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Good Fish Guide sees cuttlefish, trawl caught from the English Channel, join the marine charity’s ‘Fish to Avoid’ list, ringing alarm bells for the future health of the enigmatic species in UK waters.

Assessing what species are caught using which method and where, the Good Fish Guide provides a traffic light system to illustrate the health of the UK’s commercial fish populations. Red rated stocks join the charity’s ‘Fish to Avoid’ list, whilst green rated are the most sustainable options and considered the ‘Best Choice’.

Cuttlefish are one of the most intelligent invertebrates, with a large brain allowing them to learn and remember. Recently, the mollusc was even found to eat less during the day if their favourite meal is on offer in the evening. A chameleon of the sea, cuttlefish are also able to change colour to blend in with their surroundings, despite being colour blind themselves. When they feel threatened cuttlefish produce clouds of ink. This ink, alongside the cuttlefish’s staggering increase in commercial value, is what gives them the nickname ‘black gold’.

Charlotte Coombes, Good Fish Guide Manager: “Between 2008 and 2017, catches of cuttlefish more than doubled. Additionally, numbers of cuttlefish reported in 2017 could be the lowest on record. The dramatic increase in catches, alongside several reports identifying a rapid decline in cuttlefish populations in the English Channel, has led to a red rating in the update to the Good Fish Guide.”

The dramatic growth in cuttlefish catches over the last decade has been fuelled by a huge increase in the value of cuttlefish – which has more than doubled from around £1.50 per kilo in 2008 to around £3.60 per kilo in 2017.  In fact, landings into the UK in 2018 were worth a staggering £14.9 million.  While much of what the UK catches is exported to other countries in Europe, there’s growing interest in the UK due to its similarity in taste to squid, and it may well start to appear more on local restaurant menus in the near future.

Shockingly, given the scale of the fishery, there are currently no catch limits in place, no restrictions on where or when these animals can be caught, no minimum size limits, and no plans to make sure that populations stay at sustainable levels. These factors contribute to MCS adding trawled English Channel cuttlefish to its ‘Fish to Avoid’ list. Of real concern is the fact that the vast majority (over 90%) of the cuttlefish that are being caught haven’t yet had the chance to breed. They’re caught in trawls, offshore, before they can come inshore to lay their eggs. Some forms of bottom trawling can also cause significant habitat damage, affecting not only cuttlefish but seabed habitats and other marine animals which call the English Channel home. If too many cuttlefish are removed before they can breed, the population will really struggle to sustain itself.

Coombes continues: “MCS urgently wants to see management keeping up with the growth of this fishery to protect cuttlefish during their spawning season, and to ensure the population can stay healthy from one year to the next.”

A smaller proportion of cuttlefish are caught inshore, in pots and traps, when they come inshore to breed. While some of these pots will catch the fish before they can breed, others will catch them right at the end of their lives, after they’ve bred, making for a much more sustainable fishing model. Pots and traps have a low impact on the seabed and other species, and there are more management measures to control inshore fishing in some areas, meaning more opportunity to control catch numbers. These fisheries are rated 4, so whilst not a ‘Fish to Avoid’, it is recommended that people seek alternatives where possible.

Other movements in the Good Fish Guide include:

  • Brown crab, caught in creels (pots) around Shetland, has bounced back following a reduction in fishing pressure and tighter control rules on harvesting and is now green rated by MCS, joining the ‘Best Choice’ list
  • Non-certified pole & line-caught skipjack tuna from the Indian Ocean has moved off the Best Choice list and is now amber rated by MCS
  • Atlantic wolffish in Iceland has moved off the ‘Fish to Avoid’ list and is now amber rated
  • Queen scallops from the Isle of Man are now red rated and all populations caught around the Isle of Man are ‘Fish to Avoid’

Trawl caught cuttlefish and Isle of Man queen scallop now join wild Atlantic halibut, European eel, and several fisheries for cod on MCS’s Red Rated list. Due to fishing pressure, habitat damage and diminishing numbers, urgent action is required to recover these populations to healthy levels. Take the pledge and ‘Say No to Red Rated’ at www.mcsuk.org/red-rated

You can download the Good Fish Guide app, visit the Guide via the MCS website or grab the Pocket Good Fish Guide to ensure that you’re making the most sustainable seafood choices possible.

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

The world’s 12 best places to snorkel with whales

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Whales have captivated our imagination for centuries and snorkeling with whales is one of life’s best experiences. Whether you want to meet them in the tropics or under the Arctic sun, there is a whale adventure for you. Here is our guide to the world’s best places to snorkel with whales.

HUMPBACK WHALES

Humpback whales are found at destinations worldwide, making them easy to spend time with. These huge whales are known for their spectacular breaches and complex song and are just as rewarding whether you watch them from a boat or get in the water.

  1. Tonga

If you want to snorkel in clear blue waters with humpback mothers and their calves, visit Tonga. It is one of the most popular places to swim with humpbacks, where you can choose from day safaris or longer trips. Just make sure you book early so you don’t miss out.

When to go: July to September.

  1. Moorea, French Polynesia

French Polynesia is the perfect place to combine a luxurious getaway with a humpback whale swim safari and world-class snorkeling. There are endless snorkeling spots, beautiful beachside resorts and numerous whales. If you want to try scuba diving for the first time, the diving in Moorea is ideal for beginners. The reefs are pristine, the waters are sheltered, and you can swim with Moorea’s famously friendly stingrays whilst you’re there.

When to go: July to November.

  1. Silver Bank, Dominican Republic

The Silver Bank marine reserve provides a safe winter haven for the North Atlantic humpback whale population whilst they gather to mate, calve and raise their young. There are various liveaboard operators that offer multi-day safaris dedicated solely to learning about and swimming with these charming whales. This is a great option if you want to immerse yourself fully in the world of whales.

When to go: January to April.

4. Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

UNESCO-listed Ningaloo Reef hosts tens of thousands of humpback whales each year and is also a migratory route for dolphins, dugongs and manta rays. Lacking the crowds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, it is the most peaceful place to swim with humpback whales in Australia.

When to go: July to November.

  1. Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia

Hervey Bay – the world’s first World Whale Heritage Site – has been called the whale watching capital of the world, thanks to its abundant humpbacks. This conservation-focused destination is just a 3.5-hour drive north of Brisbane and offers day trips to swim with the whales.

Time your trip right and you can also enjoy the annual Hervey Bay Whale Festival and Paddle Out for Whales.

When to go: July to November.

  1. Reunion Island

Réunion lies 550 km east of Madagascar and is a lesser-known humpback whale hotspot. With only a handful of people allowed in the water at any one time, it is a great destination for more intimate whale encounters.

When to go: August to September.

  1. Iceland

Iceland’s rich waters are a prime feeding ground for humpbacks and offer a unique whale swim experience. Wearing a cozy dry suit, you can spend hours admiring these whales in Iceland’s incredible gin-clear waters.

When to go: June to August.

 DWARF MINKE WHALES

These pint-sized whales grow up to 8 meters long and were only discovered in the 1980s. They might be relatively new to the whale watching scene, but they are wonderful to swim with.

  1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Known for being exceptionally friendly, dwarf minke whales create truly memorable encounters as they swim around you, under you and sometimes even between your fins.

Hop on a minke whale safari at Cairns and enjoy. Go snorkeling or try Great Barrier Reef diving whilst you’re there to experience the incredible wonders of this enormous reef system.

When to go: June to July.

SPERM WHALES

Weighing up to 50 tons and reaching 15 – 20 meters long, sperm whales are one of the most sought-after and impressive whale species to swim with.

  1. Dominica

The sheer drop-offs and deep sheltered bays around Dominica are perfect for sperm whales, and the females and calves stay there all year. After just a short boat ride from the coast, you will be swimming with these amazing animals in calm azure waters.

When to go: Year-round, though November to March is peak season.

BLUE WHALES

Weighing up to a staggering 200 tonnes, blue whales are enormous, and there are two great places you can swim with them.

  1. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the only places where you can swim with blue whales, watch them from a boat, or go whale spotting in small airplanes – which is arguably the best way to get an idea of their sheer size.

When to go: March to April.

  1. San Diego, California

Baja California hosts the largest population of blue whales in the world every summer and there are a small number of operators that offer blue whale swimming safaris from San Diego. With small group sizes and week-long programs, they are perfect for maximizing your time with these huge whales.

When to go: June to October.

BELUGA WHALES

Beluga whales are easy to recognize thanks to their bright white coloring and rounded heads. These highly social animals are one of the most vocal whales and gather in large groups in Canada.

  1. Churchill, Canada

Tens of thousands of beluga whales gather each year in Hudson Bay and the small town of Churchill offers unique trips to swim with them. You can enjoy close-up encounters with hundreds of belugas in the water, plus spot polar bears, moose, Arctic foxes and more whilst you’re there.

When to go: June to September.

If you can’t get enough of whales, read the SSI guide to diving with whales to discover even more destinations where you can meet these giants of the ocean.


Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.

 

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Gear Reviews

Tried & Tested: Typhoon International’s Totland Dog Vest

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Typhoon say about their pet flotation aid: “Our Totland Dog Vest is bound to be a hit with canine crew members whose safety is just as important as that of the rest of the family.  The Totland Dog Vest offers the all-important buoyancy in an easy-to-spot bright orange tough coated nylon. 

It is easy to buckle up and has a handy haul out handle and lead loop attachment point, making it easy to help your dog on and off the boat.”

Test Conditions

  • Location: Trefor, UK
  • Temperature: 20 degrees C
  • No of Swims: 4
  • Equipment Used: Gucci the Golden Retriever
  • Test Equipment: Typhoon Totland Dog Vest
  • RRP: £20.95

Review

The Totland Dog Vest is available in four sizes, and having consulted the size chart we went for the XL to fit our big Golden Retriever, Gucci. He is a good swimmer, so for a day at the beach does not need an aid to help him stay afloat whilst chasing his favourite ball, but if we were taking him on a boat we would certainly be using one.

The vest was easy to fit and the neck fitting was padded and looked really comfortable. Gucci certainly put up no complaints at wearing it and was happy to charge up and down the beach with it on. It did not impede his movement (both running and swimming) at all. The handle is really useful for close control, as well as being essential if we were to have to assist him back onto a boat or river bank. There is an attachment for a lead too, so for those who are training their dogs to swim or worry about their recall, a long lead can be attached to let them swim and have fun and still be able to get them back!

The bright orange colour is great to being able to keep track of your dog if they swim further away from you than you would like too. The float kept Gucci nice and high in the water and he was keen to try it out over and over again! It is a tough vest with secure clips giving you confidence that your best buddy would be safe if caught out in a current. We will certainly be using this to give our nervous puppy some confidence as he ventures into the water in the future.

Visit www.typhoon-int.co.uk to see the full range and to find details of your nearest stockist.

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Competitions

Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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