Marine Environment News in Brief - November 2022

This month we highlight a Defra investigation of crustacean deaths, Remote Electronic Monitoring, a Ten Point Plan for Climate and Nature and more.

Thousands of dead and dying crabs have continued to wash up along England’s north-east coast since October 2021. A Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) investigation concluded that a harmful algal bloom was the most likely cause of the deaths.

This has been contested by local fishermen, who believed that intensive dredging in the area released industrial toxins. They believe that deeper dredging of the River Tees to accommodate the Freeport has disturbed toxic chemicals from the sediment. This includes pyridine, an industrial solvent, used in a wide range of manufacturing processes and also a by-product of coking coal, a crucial input for steel production.

Standard ecotoxicology tests have demonstrated that pyridine is acutely toxic at concentrations well below those measured in the dead crabs and, therefore, it concluded that pyridine likely played a major role. The House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee discussed the crustacean mortality issue and evidence on 25 October. Subsequently the chair has written to Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State for the Environment, to call for further research.

Renewal of Yorkshire and Northeast Net Limitation Order to protect at-risk fish stocks

As part of a proposed new ten-year Net Limitation Order (NLO), the Environment Agency has recommended  continued protection for salmon and sea trout in tidal waters from Berwick on Tweed to the mouth of the Humber estuary. The current NLO expires in December.

If approved by the Secretary of State, the new NLO will allow those who already have a licence to continue to fish for sea trout, but no new licences will be granted. Net fishing for salmon will remain illegal due to the vulnerability of the species to exploitation by commercial net fisheries.

Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM): win-win-win for wildlife, fishers and the consumer

World Wildlife Fund, Inc. (WWF) Scotland have published a blog on the value of REM for marine biodiversity and the fishing industry. It recognises the importance of the UK’s fishing industry, but also notes that commercial fishing continues to be the most widespread pressure on the marine environment. The blog suggests that through the use of REM, the industry can demonstrate when and how they are fishing, as well as what is being caught. This would demonstrate the sustainability of the catch and help with the recovery of our seas.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standard

Following a recent review, a revised MSC Fisheries Standard has been published. This includes greater protections for endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species. It introduces a new policy to increase confidence that shark finning is not taking place within certified fisheries and puts greater responsibility on certified fisheries to prevent and reduce the impact of lost fishing gear.

The revised standard also sets stronger requirements for effective monitoring and surveillance of fishing operations, particularly those on the high seas, and for international agreements on harvest strategies to safeguard shared fish stocks.

Fisheries seeking certification for the first time after 01 May 2023 will be assessed against this new version.

Project UK Report

The 2021-2022 Annual Report for Project UK has been published. Project UK includes 12 fisheries, through eight Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIPs). These fisheries were selected because they bring commercial, economic, and cultural benefits to UK communities.

Ten Point Plan for Climate and Nature

The All Party Parliamentary Environment Group has published a Ten Point Plan for Climate and Nature. This includes a tripling of the floating offshore wind target, from 5GW by 2030 to 15GW by 2035, a restoration of 30% of UK saltmarshes and seagrass meadows by 2030, and more ambitious targets for nature restoration through the Environment Act. The Government recently missed a legally binding deadline for publication of these targets. Read an update on the progress of Environment Act Targets.

2022 Progress Report on 30x30 in England

In 2020 the UK Government pledged to protect at least 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030. Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) has published a 2022 progress report which concludes that there has been limited progress. Included in the report’s recommendations are the need to:

  • Complete the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) byelaw programme for all offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and implement by 2024.
  • Address displacement where protection measures push fishing activity elsewhere.
  • Implement the five Highly Protected Marine Area (HPMA) pilot sites and the designation of further HPMAs so that at least 10% of England’s seas are incorporated by 2030.

All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Fisheries Survey

APPG Fisheries are seeking feedback to help improve future events. The survey should only take 5 minutes and all results are anonymous. Take part in the survey.

Coastal Future 2023

Bookings are now open for Coastal Futures 2023 (25-26 January) which will be held in person at the Royal Geographical Society (London) and also online. Main topics for discussion include the climate challenge, marine restoration, fisheries management, and MPAs.


  • 16 Nov 2022: Defra consultation on Managing flyseine vessel pressure on demersal non-quota species.


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