Alton Bay Dolceloca

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No matter what you eat, it’s important not to take too much fish from our seas and rivers. Not just in England but worldwide, over-fishing is wreaking havoc on the world from by-catch and ghost fishing waste is reducing the amount of fish for other creatures (the government is considering banning sandeel fishing, due to puffins having no food to eat). Half of all Pacific garbage is made up of fishing nets, with up to 5 million fish caught each minute. A report found that a third of all UK commercial fish stocks are now in danger, with 90% of tuna and cod in our seas already caught (the latter is even facing extinction). Fish farms are not the answer (they are cruel and spread disease). Try a few plant-based alternatives to fish!

Modern trawlers are massive ‘factories on sea’ that use nets to drag up everything on the sea floor (including sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, whales and coral reef). Then they’re just thrown back in the sea to die. And as with factory-farming for meat, it ousts small fishing businesses. The Sunday Times Rich List reports just five families now control a third of the UK fishing quota. The government often talks of fishing rights in the English Channel, but neglect to point this out. The biggest tuna company on earth (which owns John West) only cleaned up its own practices, after protests worldwide by thousands of people.

what are the most over-fished species?

Alaska pollock is so over-fished that one author writes ‘If you’re eating fish but you don’t know what kind it is, it’s almost certainly pollock’. Often disguised as ‘seafood’ in salad or ‘crab meat’, it’s also in school ‘fish sticks’ and McDonald’s ‘Filet-o-fish’ sandwiches. With a US annual value of over one billion dollars, the species population has halved, with some predicting possible extinction if nothing changes.

Tuna is another seriously over-fished species. In the wild, these large fish can live over a decade (one fisherman off New England’s coast tagged one in 2004 that was found in a Mediterranean fish trap 14 years later, proving they can swim the entire Atlantic ocean). You can now buy vegan tuna in supermarkets (even John West has got on board).

Sharks are also seriously over-fished, even though they kill less people than toasters, and are vital for ocean ecosystems (even the creator of the film Jaws says he now wishes he hadn’t, due to the way sharks are now viewed). Never buy shark fin soup (still legal to sell in the UK – it’s got no taste and used for decoration, yet involves slicing off their fins, then throwing them back in the sea to die slowly).

the answer is ocean sanctuaries

Ocean sanctuaries seem to be the answer (these are kind of sea versions of land areas where no-one is allowed to hunt). Rising above politics, ocean sanctuaries are owned by nobody but the organisations that protect them, and are huge (Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea sanctuary is only smaller than the Ross Sea protected area of Antarctica) and is allowing sea turtles, monk seals and the world’s most endangered duck to restore numbers). California’s National Marine Sanctuary has  seen the return of fish but sea lions, pelicans, sea otters, migrating whales and kelp forests. Yet at present, they form just 1% of oceans.

Nearer to home, Lamlash Bay in Scotland has created its own ocean sanctuary. Just one square mile (it took 13 years of campaigning by locals to create it, showing the opposition at hand).  Nothing is allowed to be taken here, leaving octopus, scallops and fish to live amid the maerl (a unique seaweed that grows in the bay). It also helps to stem the issue of illegal fishing, as the penalties are greater. England now has several ocean sanctuaries, which are protecting bottlenose dolphins and sea slugs. Along with seagrass that has been damaged by trawlers and anchors – sea turtles (‘ocean lawnmowers’) love to eat it.

good alternative incomes for the fishing industry

lavender vegan sneakers

Many communities rely on fishing to bring in income, especially in rural areas. So here are some alternative income ideas, which can bring in the same (or likely more) income, yet still keep fish in our seas, mercury out of our bodies and stop by-catch of seabirds, seals, dolphins, whales and sharks.

Corail vegan sneakers

Corail is not just a funky vegan sneaker company that sells ethically-made footwear made with eco-recycled materials, but it actually employs a crew of fishermen in Marseille (France) to go out to sea each day, to collect plastic waste (and discarded fishing nets) floating on the surface, to turn into their shoes.

seaweed beer

SeaGrown Seaweed Beer uses hand-harvested seaweed from Yorkshire’s coast with notes of caramel, toasted bread, herbs and lemon, combined with local kelp. It also makes seaweed seasonings. Harvesting seaweed offshore helps reduce agricultural runoff and algae bloom, which harms marine wildlife. England has over 600 species of seaweed (mostly native species) although warming coastal temperatures is (like on land) affecting growing, due to climate change. The most common type is bladderwrack (the type that looks a bit like ‘bubble wrap’ with big air bubbles). Only about 20 species of seaweed are edible, though others are also used in beauty care and some are dehydrated to make seaweed salts.

ocean bottle

Ocean Bottle is a made from double wall vacuum-stainless steel and recycled materials, leakproof and dishwasher-safe. Available in a wide variety of colours, it uses profits to fund a program worldwide where local people get paid to remove plastic from the oceans, providing incomes and cleaning up the seas at the same time. The company also makes travel flasks.

ocean bottle brew flask

Developed in Oslo, the recycled ocean-bound plastic is shipped from the Philippines to a factory in Shanghai which is vetted rigorously, and runs on solar panels. The bottle is designed to last 10 years, then easily recycled.

how to safely recycle your fishing waste

2 minute beach cleanup stations

Fishing waste (aka ghost fishing waste as it ends up forever in our seas) is made up of everything from fishing rods and tackle to old nets, which trap wildlife in our seas and oceans. If you are an angler, here are some ways you can ensure that your fishing waste does not harm other creatures, after you go home. Each year, an estimated 640,000 tons of fishing waste is discarded in seas worldwide. This leads to millions of marine creatures being trapped and killed. It’s estimated that each year, abandoned into the sea are:

  1. 78,000 square km of purse seine nets and gillnets
  2. 215 sq square km of bottom trawl nets
  3. 740,000 km of main long lines
  4. 15.5 million km of branch lines
  5. 13 billion longline hooks
  6. 25 million traps & pots

Anglers can buy Monomaster (a nifty little invention, which unlike recycling bins that encourage nesting birds, keeps line safely stored. Then just take this to your local fishing line recycling bin (if there is not one nearby, your local angling shop may have a scheme). 

Fishing line is often discarded on the beach. Whether you act alone or as part of a team, WaterHaul offers litter picking kits (along with folding pocket knives) that you can use to remove discarded fishing waste on your local beaches. Some beaches have 2-minute beach clean-up stations with tools an a place to deposit found fishing waste and other beach litter.

Terracycle offers a used ‘sports equipment’ box (which also takes fishing rods & nets). For a one-off charge, communities can get together to send all unused and broken sports items out of town, to be recycled into other items. The box accepts all sports balls, rackets and equipment (not wood), plus swimsuits, goggles, water bottles, cycling accessories and yoga mats.

Many creatures (including seahorses) are at risk from boat anchors. Advanced mooring systems have developed an alternative that is safer for marine wildlife. Read tips to be a sustainable sailor!

a photographer’s image makes a difference

man against the sea Jordi Chias

This turtle was immediately rescued after underwater photographer Jordi Chias took this photo while diving, as part of his award-winning collection ‘Man Against the Sea’. He had joined friends sailing from Barcelona to Mallorca, to photograph whales and dolphins. Around 50 miles out from the coast, they saw a loggerhead turtle trapped in an abandoned net.

Badly knotted up for likely days, Jordi (still in his wetsuit) noticed the creature had extended his neck up to breathe. He quickly took over 25 photos (to raise awareness) then they lifted the turtle on board and spent 20 minutes cutting it free. It thankfully swam away, and the image (a bit like the sea turtle with the plastic straw stuck up his nose) has hopefully changed minds and hearts.

  1. The North Sea is seriously over-fished, so nets are often snagged to trap marine wildlife in England, Germany and Holland.
  2. The Mediterranean Sea contains 30% of unique species, but again over-fishing is causing havoc. The most polluted sea in Europe now has many creatures at risk including in Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Lebanon. The Northern Adriatic Sea is one of the most over-fished basins with bottlenose dolphins at risk around Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.
  3. The Red Sea contains coral reefs which are home to endangered species, and warming waters from climate change. The coastal town of Dahab is a hub for marine litter including ghost fishing waste, single-use fabric, fabrics and cigarette filters.

should we buy recycled fishing waste items?

It’s very fashionable now to buy items made from recycled plastic waste (whether that’s fishing waste or plastic bottles). In theory it’s a good way to use up the waste, but of course it’s not solving the issue at hand. Buying items made from things that won’t go back in the sea (or washing machine) is good. Examples are:

  1. Reusable cup holders
  2. Carpet tiles
  3. Plant pots (avoid toxic plants near pets)
  4. Skateboards!

The issue is for items like swimwear, flops and beach towels (microplastics just go back to sea), sunglasses (okay if you’re not leaning over a boat where they could drop in) and clothing (if used, launder with a microplastic catcher and just rinse swimming costumes if you don’t need to wash them, for less chance of release).

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