Tag Archives: fishing

Global Fishing Watch

Global Fishing Watch shows you ships fishing in protected areas

In the last 60 years the fishing industry have caught nine out of every ten large fish. That’s only 10% of large fish like tuna, cod, swordfish and halibut remaining on the planet. International fleets still pursue what is remaining. According a 2014 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, over 90% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited or over-fished.

This week Oceana, Skytruth and Google launched The Global Fishing Watch. This can identify individual fishing vessels and track their fishing activity, shining a light on fishing activity worldwide.

Global Fishing Watch Map

Global Fishing Watch Example Map

The prototype anlayses data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) network. This was designed to avoid collisions and gives information about a ship’s identy, location, speed and direction of travel. Global Fishing Watch uses the data to map the who, where and when of commercial fishing around the world.

Global Fishing Watch will be available to anyone with an internet connection to monitor when and where commercial fishing is happening around the globe. The designers hope that people will use the tool to see for themselves whether their fisheries are being effectively managed. Seafood suppliers can keep tabs on the boats they buy fish from. Media and the public can act as watchdogs to improve the sustainable management of global fisheries. Fisherman can show that they are obeying the law and doing their part. Researchers will have access to a multi-year record of all trackable fishing activity.

The systems aims to make fishing activity more transparent and identify illegal fishing. It will be able to monitor any fishing activity in closed, protected areas. For example, in tests the Komarovo, a trawler registered in Russia, appeared to be fishing five times inside the Dzhugdzhursky State Nature Reserve in September 2013. The nature reserve is an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) category 1a protected area, meaning it has the highest, and strictest, protection level possible. However, at least five vessels, all registered in Russia, entered the Nature Reserve and exhibited behavior suggestive of fishing in 2013.

There are currently 6,600 marine protected areas (MPAs) covering about 2 percent of the world’s oceans. An even smaller area of the global oceans, about 1 percent, has been protected with a “No Take” designation where all fishing is prohibited.

“Global Fishing Watch is designed to empower all stakeholders, including governments, fishery managers, citizens and members of the fishing industry itself, so that together they may work to bring back a healthy, bio-diverse and maximally productive ocean,” said Andrew Sharpless, CEO of Oceana. “By engaging citizens to hold their elected officials accountable for managing fisheries sustainably and for enforcing fishing rules, Global Fishing Watch will help bring back the world’s fisheries, protecting and enhancing the livelihoods of the hundreds of millions of people who depend on ocean fisheries for food and income.”

Although the Global Fishing Watch promises to be a fantastic tool, it is not perfect. Many smaller fishing vessels are not included in Global Fishing Watch as vessels below 300 gross tonnage are not currently required to operate AIS in many areas. It is hoped that the AIS will be expanded to smaller ships.

SkyTruth is a nonprofit organization using remote sensing and digital mapping to create stunning images that expose the environmental impact of natural resource extraction and other human activities. Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Google Earth Outreach is a team dedicated to leveraging and developing Google’s infrastructure to address environmental and humanitarian issues through partnerships with non-profits, educational institutions, and research groups.

Further Reading:
Global Fishing Watch

Sustainable fishing stamps

Stamping out over-fishing

For the first time, Britain’s Royal Mail has issued stamps championing an environmental issue – and that issue is sustainable fishing. Over-fishing has long been a problem – policy-makers don’t seem to understand if you take more fish out of the sea than can be replaced then you will run out. One way things might change is by consumers voting with their purses and choosing to buy only fish that can be caught sustainably. Research by the Royal Mail, though, has revealed that little is known by the public about which fish are in trouble and which we can eat.

Half of the species illustrated are fish that are at risk in UK waters: Common Skate; Spiny Dogfish (Rock Salmon); Wolffish; Sturgeon and Conger Eel. The other half are species from what are probably sustainable populations and suitable alternatives: Herring; Red Gurnard; Dab; Pouting and Cornish Sardine.

Professor Callum Roberts who acted as consultant for Royal Mail on the stamp issue said: “Marine protected areas that are off limits to fishing could recover endangered species like those on the stamps, as well as providing a boost to the fishing industry through recovered stocks. Only one thousandth of 1% of UK seas are fully protected from fishing at present. To bring back endangered fish species, we need a huge increase in the coverage of such protected areas.”

The Threatened Fish

Common Skate, Dipturus batis

Common Skate, Dipturus batis
The largest skate found in European waters, with females growing up to 285 cm. They can live up to 100 years. Previously widespread – as the name implies – they are now extinct in the Mediterranean and greatly reduced in range around Britain. Retaining and landing common skate is now prohibited in EU waters. Common skate is assessed as Critically Endangered.

Wolffish, Anarhichas lupus

Woffish, Anarhichas lupus
Wolffish live on the seabed. They do not reproduce until they are 8 to 10 years old. Modern fishing methods have severely reduced wolffish numbers, not just by catching the fish but also by destroying their habitat and breeding grounds with intensive, repeated bottom trawling.

Common Skate, Dipturus batis

Conger Eel, Conger conger
This massive fish can grow to almost 3 m (10 ft) long, the females often being bigger than the males. Congers breed only once in their lives, commonly when they reach 5 years old, after which they die. As they breed only once, just about all eels which are caught in fishing nets are juveniles which have not yet reached spawning age. They only become sexually mature during the journey to the spawning areas.

Spiny Dogfish, Squalus acanthias

Spiny Dogfish, Squalus acanthias
More commonly known in the fishmongers as Rock Salmon, the spiny dogfish is critically endangered. It is a long-lived, slow-growing and late-maturing species and therefore particularly vulnerable to fishing. Pregnancy lasts between 18 and 22 months, one of the longest recorded for any vertebrate, and they give birth to live young. Older females produce 10 to 21 pups, but younger ones (who are smaller than 1 m) produce less.

Sturgeon, Acipenser, Huso spp

Sturgeon, Acipenser, Huso spp
Although some sturgeon sold are farmed, those caught in nets should be avoided. According to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) “The value of wild sturgeon caviar is so high that there is a substantial illegal fishery for sturgeon that is completely unregulated. Consequently many species are in rapid decline.

Fish that are OK to Eat

Pouting or Bib

Pouting or Bib, Trisopterus luscus
Called Pouting on the stamp but known to divers as Bib. A member of the cod family, matures at just 1 to 2 years and around 23 cm long. Pouting is considered an “under-utilised species”: the ones that fishermen don’t catch their full quota of; or they catch them but then discard the fish because no one wants to buy them. Can be used in recipes specifying white fish.


Herring, Clupea harengus
Herring is a familiar fish. Its sustainability depends on the methods of the fishery catching it. Look for certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to show that the Herring were caught responsibly.


Red Gurnard, Aspitrigla cuculus
Gurnards are a non-quota species so are often discarded due to low market demand. If we eat these it will stop fish being wasted in this way. Avoid eating immature fish – those less than 25cm – and fresh fish caught in summer during the spawning season.


Cornish Sardine, Sardina pilchardus
Look for MSC certified fish with the Blue tick logo on the package. The most sustainable sardine fishery are the Cornish boats using traditional pilchard drift nets. Sardines and pilchards are the same fish, the larger fish are known and pilchards and the smaller as sardines.


Dab, Limanda limanda
Dab is one of the most abundant fish in the North Sea and can be eaten instead of other flat fish like plaice.

Further reading:
Royal Mail
Fish online: a good site to find out about which other fish to eat or avoid from the Marine Conservation Society


Fiji achieves her first certified sustainable tuna fishery

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has awarded the Fiji Albacore Tuna Long Line fishery its sustainability certification, the fourth tuna fishery in the South Pacific to achieve this. This follows an independent assessment against the MSC’s standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

MSC manager for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, Patrick Caleo, is pleased to recognise another tuna fishery with MSC certification.

“The Fiji albacore tuna fishery is the first albacore long line fishery to demonstrate its sustainability credentials with an MSC certification. Tuna is one of the most popular species of fish and now consumers can enjoy verified sustainable albacore from this Fiji fishery,” he said.
Assessment against the MSC standard, which took 18 months to complete, was conducted by the independent, third party certifier, Intertek Moody Marine. In scoring the fishery the assessment team took into consideration overall stock health and management of albacore in the South Pacific, as well as all potential ecosystem impacts attributed to the Fiji fishery. The assessment found the albacore stock to be in a healthy state and the fishery adhering to good management principles, with marginal impact on habitats and non-target species.

The current certificate is valid for five years, during which progress against the conditions set out in the certification requirements will be tracked and available for public review in annual surveillance audits.

The fishery has committed to take action to meet eight conditions to improve some aspects of the fishery up to the international best practice level. This includes ensuring that management of the fishery is improved to establish reference points and a harvest strategy including harvest control rules. The fishery has also implemented a management strategy that ensures the fishery does not slow down the recovery and rebuilding of retained species.

The assessment has been strongly supported by the Fiji Government through the Fisheries Division, especially in ensure appropriate fishery management conditions are in place.

Further Reading:
Marine Stewardship Council

Fish counter

UK Eats Last of Home-Grown Fish

The UK today ran out of fish from her own waters, and became dependent on imported fish for the rest of the year, according to a report from NEF (the New Economics Foundation) and OCEAN2012.

If stocks were allowed to recover, the UK could meet her annual demand and stop consuming more fish than her seas produce.

Though dependent on foreign stock as of tomorrow, the UK does better than many of its European counterparts. The fish dependence days of France, Germany and Italy fell on May 21, April 20 and April 21 respectively, while EU citizens on average ran out of fish on July 7 this year.

Overfishing means the UK is getting much less out of its fish stocks than if they were restored and sustainably managed.

The report Jobs Lost at Sea published by nef earlier this year estimates the benefits of rebuilding 43 European stocks (out of more than 150) and finds that:
– Restoring commercial UK fish stocks to their maximum sustainable yield would increase the additional catch in 467,292 tones, 1.6 times the current fish import deficit.
– If directed only to human food consumption, the additional landings from rebuilding UK stocks could provide for the annual consumption of 23 million Brits and would allow the UK to meet the annual fish demand for the whole year.
– At current levels of consumption, restoring UK stocks would allow the UK to move from being a net importer to being a net exporter.

Rupert Crilly from the New Economics Foundation said:

“The UK is an island nation with access to some of the richest and most productive fishing grounds and has moderate levels of fish consumption compared to Spain and Portugal. It could produce as much as it needs but instead it is a net importer of fish.

“Consumers understand that we import tuna which is virtually non-existent in its in waters; but it will wonder why we need to import cod and haddock from China when our cod and haddock stocks could deliver five and three times more catches with better management.”

Just over a quarter of all imports of cod in 2010 came from Iceland. The second largest exporter of cod to the UK was China (14 thousand tonnes). Imports from EU member states accounted for 29 per cent of all cod imports into the UK in 2010. More than half of all haddock imported into the UK in 2010 came from Iceland (17 thousand tonnes) and Norway (16 thousand tonnes). The next largest was China, which exported 8 thousand tonnes of haddock to the UK in 2010.

Image copyright Matt Banks

Further Reading:
Fish dependence – 2012 update


‘Electronic Eyes’ Watch Tuna Fishing

A Spanish ship is the first tropical tuna vessel to test the latest in electronic monitoring technology, designed for when an onboard human observer is not a practical option. The observation of fishing activities provides validation of critical catch and operational data, integral to scientific analyses and market transparency.

Experts from Archipelago Marine Research Ltd, working on behalf of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, outfitted the vessel with a video-based electronic monitoring system. The system uses an array of sensors to monitor key fishing gear, and trigger the video cameras when it detects fishing activity. An onboard control centre manages the system and logs the data, along with boat location, speed and heading information provided by the system’s GPS receiver. Throughout the trip, the system also delivers hourly updates via satellite, reporting vessel position, fishing activity, and other relevant information. Once the vessel returns to port, any portion of the logged data can be reviewed to help evaluate fishing activity.

Borja Soroa, Managing Director of fishing fleet involved said, “The success of this monitoring technology means that even in regions where safety is a chief concern, like it is in the Indian Ocean, observer coverage is not optional. This will become a standard for doing business and we’re committed to doing our part to help make it work.”

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health.

Further Reading: International Seafood Sustainability Foundation

EU Subsidises Fishing Crooks

Fishsubsidy.orgFishing Boat has published a list of law-breaking fishing vessels from Spain, France, Belgium and the UK who have all received EU subsidies. Between them, the 41 boats have received 16,360,770 Euros in subsidies. The data has been collected manually from government websites, press reports and court records: it is therefore likely to be an under-estimate.

Five of the vessels, all from Spain, received over 1 million Euros in subsidies. They have been convicted of serious infringements ranging from logbook misreporting to captures under minimum size to use of illegal fishing gear and exceeding quota.

Some of the vessels on the list have been convicted multiple times.

Other fishing crimes listed include fishing in prohibited areas,  false landing declarations, illegal mesh sizes, illegal discards and possession of 2.5 tonnes of cocaine. Currently there is no obligation to take criminal behaviour into account when deciding which vessels should get subsidies.

Subsidies paid to owners of fishing vessels and others working in the fishing industry under the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy amount to approximately 1 billion euro a year.

Fishsubsidy.org is a project coordinated by EU Transparency, a non-profit organisation in the UK and the Pew Charitable Trusts, a charitable foundation based in the United States. The aim is to obtain detailed data relating to payments and recipients of fisheries subsidies in every EU Member State and make this data available in a way that is useful to European citizens.

Further Reading

Fishsubsidy.org‘s list of identified infringements.