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Marine Life & Conservation

New research shows 98% decrease in bottom-towed fishing in Marine Protected Area since ban 

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New analysis from the Marine Conservation Society of fishing in Marine Protected Areas (MPA) has shown how effective byelaws banning bottom-towed fishing in MPAs can be.  

Between June and October, from 2015-2019, an average of 623 hours of bottom-towed fishing took place within the English Dogger Bank MPA. Located about 120 kilometres east of Hull, Dogger Bank has been heavily fished for decades.  

However, between June and October 2022, since the ban has been in place, fishing activity dropped to just 13 hours; a 98% decrease in seabed fishing. This steep decline in fishing highlights how effective proper protections in these vulnerable and vital areas can be. 

Jean-Luc Solandt, Principal MPA Specialist at the Marine Conservation Society said, “The huge reduction in seabed fishing we’ve identified shows how effective governments can be in protecting our ocean. This needs to be replicated across all offshore MPA’s to help recover fish stocks, provide sanctuary for marine life, and protect sensitive habitats from destruction. 

Our ocean has an incredible ability to recover when it’s given a chance. The Government must meet its target to fully protect all English offshore MPAs before 2024. The sooner this happens, the sooner our seas can restore themselves.”  

To more accurately monitor fishing activity, the Marine Conservation Society is working with WWF and RSPB, as the Future Fisheries Alliance, to campaign for the Government to implement the use of Remote Electronic Monitoring with cameras on boats. Not only would this technology allow scientists to see where boats fish, but it would also help reduce bycatch and prevent overfishing. You can read the charity’s report here 

Protection of England’s offshore MPAs is critical for both climate and nature recovery. However, the UK Government has a long way to go to reach its promise of properly protecting all 40 of England’s offshore MPA sites by 2024.  

Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEO, said: “With the UN Conference on Biodiversity (COP15) currently taking place, world leaders must turn their attentions to urgently protecting our planet from nature loss. If we’re to achieve 30% of land and sea protected by 2030, our ocean cannot be forgotten. When our ocean is protected, habitats can recover and support the incredible diversity of life in our seas.”  

At five times the size of the Lake District National Park, Dogger Bank was once abundant in species such as halibut, cod and angelshark, whose populations are currently struggling in UK waters. There is hope that, with these new protections in place, these species and many more will be able to recover and thrive. 

However, the charity’s evidence shows that fishing efforts continue to be high in adjacent Dutch and German sections of the Dogger Bank MPA. Whilst the ban in English waters of the MPA will encourage local wildlife stocks to recover, the charity’s data does show intense fishing elsewhere. 

To address this, the Marine Conservation Society continues to work with a coalition of European NGOs, Seas at Risk, fighting to protect all of Europe’s MPAs from the damage done by bottom trawling. In particular, the charity is working with Dutch and German colleagues to ensure that protection of their part of the Dogger Bank follows the UK protection. 

For more information visit the Marine Conservation Society website

Header Image: Paul Naylor

Marine Life & Conservation

UK Shark Fin ban moves closer to becoming law

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Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation’s relentless campaigns to make Britain shark fin-free reached a new milestone last week when a private member’s bill to ban the import and export of shark fins was voted through parliament with unanimous cross-party support.

The bill is now scheduled for three readings in the House of Lords and, if successful, it will then go to King Charles for Royal Ascent and become law.

Campaign director for Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said:

“Our goal of ending Britain’s ties with the global shark fin trade is within our reach. This country has a dark history of exporting around 20 tonnes of shark fins every year and it remains legal to bring up to 20kg of dried shark fins through Customs without needing to declare it. This bill could represent a significant blow to the multi-million-pound shark fin industry. It’s now down to the House of Lords to smooth its path to the palace.”

Since July 2022 the charity has been consulting the Labour MP Christina Rees who put forward the private member’s bill after the government failed to bring its Animal Welfare Bill, that promised to ban the import and export of shark fins, into law last year.

To help improve support for the bill, Bite-Back also created a briefing document on the issues for all MPs to reference. During the bill’s final reading in the House of Commons MPs from different parties wholeheartedly endorsed the ban on the import and export of shark fins.

In her closing statement Christina Rees MP said that she hoped this bill would ‘drive up the standards of global shark conservation’.

Bite-Back will now turn its attention to educating and inspiring members of the House of Lords to vote in favour of a ban.

Follow the bill’s progress at www.bite-back.com and learn how you can get involved in supporting shark conservation initiatives in the UK.

Header image: Finned sharks underwater- Copyright – Scubazoo.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Trust calls for global shark citizen scientists

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Never let a shark sighting go to waste!

The Shark Trust has launched a new smartphone app that makes it simple for everyone to get involved in shark science and conservation. The new app brings together five citizen science projects into one place, allowing users to report: shark sightings, eggcase finds, Basking Shark observations, angling catches, and incidents of shark entanglement with marine litter.

Through these projects, anyone with an interest in sharks, skates and rays can contribute to important research and have a lot of fun along the way. The findings can be submitted from anywhere in the world and will help scientists by providing a range of vital data from some of the 1200+ species of sharks, skates and rays that swim in our ocean.

As users submit their findings across the five citizen science projects, they will build a logbook of their research contributions. These are saved in their profile and shared with the wider community, so users can see what other people have recently been discovering.

Alongside this important citizen science aspect, there are also 50 collectible shark cards to unlock: 30 bronze cards, 15 silver cards, and five gold cards. Submitting to any of the projects unlocks a card at random, so you never know what you’re going to find!

Shark Trust App for Great Eggcase Hunt: Image by James Harris

The Shark Trust’s flagship citizen science project, the Great Eggcase Hunt, which encourages the public to find the empty eggcases (or mermaid’s purses) of sharks and skate on the beach or submit those seen developing in situ, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Senior Conservation Officer Cat Gordon says “We’re really excited to be celebrating the Great Eggcase Hunt’s 20th anniversary this year! As part of the celebrations, we’re releasing this brand-new citizen science app, hosting a public evening event, and planning a special edition of the Trust’s membership magazine Shark Focus. The project has grown substantially since 2003, when we received just 128 records in the first year, to having a staggering 50,212 individual eggcases recorded in 2022 alone! In total, we’ve received over 370,000 eggcases since the project began, and we hope the app inspires even more people to get out and about in search of mermaid’s purses!

The Great Eggcase Hunt element of the app features eggcases from species which can be found in the Northeast Atlantic, as well as those in Australia (working in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation). In time we will add identification materials from more regions, but until then, records can still be submitted from outside these areas. This app replaces the previous Great Eggcase Hunt app which was launched in 2014 – so if you previously used that then please delete it and download the new version!

If you are interested in sharks, skates and rays and want to help contribute towards research and conservation, the Shark Trust citizen science app is for you. Everyone from the occasional beachgoer to seasoned divers and anglers can get involved.

Paul Cox, Shark Trust CEO, says “For a while we’ve wanted to make it easier and more fun for people to identify and record their sightings. Thanks to a generous donation from Animal Friends Pet Insurance, we’ve been able to create this great tool with local gamification specialists, Kazow Games. We’re really excited to get this app out into the world and start to see more recorders getting involved with our projects.”

Search for ‘Shark Trust’ in the relevant app store, download the app today, and start recording your findings. We are already working on some exciting updates and are still welcoming feedback, so if you have opportunity to try it out, please let us know what you think!

Let’s build a global community of citizen scientists who can help protect these incredible animals together!

Find out more on the Shark Trust website.

Header image: James Harris

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