Tag Archives: fish

Green Film Festival tours the UK

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A still from The Last Catch. Pic: UK Green Film Festival

The UK Green Film Festival 2014 celebrates seven powerful environmental films that will tour the country from 1-8 June.

This year’s line-up includes international award-winning films, and explores some of today’s big environmental issues. The films will be screened in 17 venues in 15 cities across the UK, including Clapham, Greenwich and Hackney Picturehouses.

Seven feature length documentaries – including several UK premieres – from all over the world will be presented at the festival, all of which will be preceded by an accompanying short film. These include:

  • The Last Catch. A study of the tuna industry’s impact on both the fish and those who catch them.
  • Lost Rivers. An exploration of the subterranean network of rivers beneath London, Montreal, Toronto and Brescia that house the secrets of each city’s past.
  • A River Changes Course. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at Sundance 2013, chronicles the influence of rapid urbanisation on three families in Cambodia.

“Our aim is simple,” said the festival’s co-founder, John Long. “We want to help people understand their impact on the environment, and what they can do to reduce it. Film has the power to do that; to provoke thought, to inspire, and to entertain. That’s what the UK Green Film Festival is all about.” 

60% of UK species in decline, warns new report

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UK nature is in trouble – that is the conclusion of a groundbreaking report published this week by a coalition of leading conservation and research organisations.

Butterflies and moths have been particularly badly affected – almost three quarters of UK butterfly species have decreased in population during the last decade and the number of the UK’s larger moths has crashed during the past 40 years.

Scientists from 25 wildlife organisations have compiled a stock take of our native species and found that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from the UK altogether.

The unique report, based on scientific analysis of tens of millions of observations from volunteers, shows that from woodland to farmland and from freshwater streams to the sea, many animals, birds, insects, fish and plants  are in trouble.

The causes include the intensification of farming, with the consequent loss of meadows, hedgerows and ponds and increased pesticide use, as well as building development, overfishing and climate change.

The State of Nature report was launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation charities at the Natural History Museum in London on Wednesday, while simultaneous events were held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

Sir David Attenborough said: “This groundbreaking report is a stark warning – but it is also a sign of hope. For 60 years I have travelled the world exploring the wonders of nature and sharing that wonder with the public. But as a boy my first inspiration came from discovering the UK’s own wildlife.

“Our islands have a rich diversity of habitats which support some truly amazing plants and animals. We should all be proud of the beauty we find on our own doorstep; from bluebells carpeting woodland floors and delicately patterned fritillary butterflies, to the graceful basking shark and the majestic golden eagle soaring over the Scottish mountains.

“This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate. However, we have in this country a network of passionate conservation groups supported by millions of people who love wildlife. The experts have come together today to highlight the amazing nature we have around us and to ensure that it remains here for generations to come.”

Dr Mark Eaton, a lead author on the report, said: “This report reveals that the UK’s nature is in trouble – overall we are losing wildlife at an alarming rate.These declines are affecting our insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles, the most, but other once common species, like the lesser spotted woodpecker, barbastelle bat and hedgehog are vanishing before our eyes.

“Threats including sweeping habitat loss, changes to the way we manage our countryside, and the more recent impact of climate change, have had a major impact on our wildlife, and they are not going away.

“None of this work would have been possible without the army of volunteer wildlife enthusiasts. Our knowledge of nature in the UK would be significantly poorer without these unsung heroes. And that knowledge is the most essential tool that conservationists have.”

Fish fighters march on Parliament

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Celebrity chef and food writer Fearnley-Whittingstall will be leading a march on Parliament at noon on Monday, 25 February, to persuade ministers to put in place a wider network of marine conservation zones, where fishing would be effectively banned.

The seas around the UK cover 700,000km and yet only 8km are fully protected from all forms of fishing. Less than 10km are protected from the destruction that is caused to the seabed by the heavy iron teeth that are used to dredge for scallops and the metal chains of beam trawls.

The  march is calling for the creation of 127 marine conservation areas and will set off  from the London Aquarium at 12 noon and will be filmed for his new  Channel 4 TV series, Hugh’s Fish Fight. Organisations taking part will include Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society, Sealife and the British Sub-Aqua Club.

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The chef, who started his Fish Fight campaign two years ago, will highlight the destruction of our seabeds in his new series, starting tonight at 9pm. The first episode will show how the huge metal ploughs used on scallop dredges tear up all life, rocks and seaweeds on the seabed. Booths supermarket has already pledged to stop selling dredged scallops and will stock only scallops that have been dived for, which does not damage the surrounding area.

Fearnley-Whittingstall is hoping to replicate the success of his campaign against the discarding of healthy fish at sea under the EU’s fishing quotas. Discarding results in about half of the fish in the North Sea alone being thrown back dead, even though they are edible and healthy, because they are caught by vessels that have exceeded their quota. He has got the support of celebrities like Stephen Fry, Coldplay and Ricky Gervais, as well as several supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer.

Landmark victory for fish fighters across Europe

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The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to ban the wasteful practice of throwing away fish at sea in a victory for green groups after more than two years of campaigning.

There are hopes that these changes to the controversial EU Common Fisheries Policy can become law by next year. MEPs voted for the reform package by 502 votes to 137 after being bombarded with complaints, following a series of high-profile campaigns from environmentalists, fishermen and celebrity chefs.

Campaigners are angry that EU boats in the North Sea have to throw away up to half of what they catch to stay within their quotas. The reforms package include:

  • Rebuilding fish stocks to sustainable levels
  • Setting catch limits in line with the best scientific advice
  • Banning discards
  • Priority access to those who fish in environmentally beneficial ways
  • Tightening the rules on how EU vessels fish in distant waters.

“This is really excellent news,” said the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who spearheaded a Fish Fight campaign that mobilised hundreds of thousands of people to oppose discards. “It was a nerve-racking morning. We’re really grateful to the thousands of Fish Fighters across Europe who emailed MEPs over the last few days, and helped to head off a last-ditch attempt by some politicians to fatally weaken the discards ban.”

Greenpeace welcomed the MEPs’ vote, saying the reforms were a “momentous shift away from overfishing” and would help to promote small-scale and low-impact fishing methods, which usually cause less environmental harm.

A Greenpeace spokesperson said: “National governments that stand in the way of reform, like Spain and France, will find it increasingly hard to act as proxies for a handful of powerful companies, with no concern for the long-term wellbeing of the oceans or the majority of fishermen.”

How to give wildlife a helping hand this winter

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The coldest months of the year can be  a challenging time for birds, hedgehogs, squirrels and other wildlife.

Every winter between one and two thousand wild animals are brought into RSPCA wildlife centres suffering from dehydration, hunger and cold. As a result, the charity is giving nature lovers some great tips on how to help. Here are seven simple things you can do to try and reduce these casualties:

  • Make your garden wildlife-friendly. Leave undisturbed ‘wild’ areas in your garden and provide piles of   leaves or brushwood as nests for hedgehogs to rest and hibernate in.
  • If you have a frozen pond, make sure you check it every day for ice, as toxic gases can build up in the water of a frozen pond and kill fish or frogs. If a pond freezes over, carefully place a saucepan of hot water on the surface to gently melt a hole in the ice. Never tip boiling water on to the pond as this may harm fish.
  • Feed  the birds in your garden. They may have difficulty finding normal food supplies so any alternative extra food you can put out will help. Try giving a range of seeds, fresh unsalted peanuts and table scraps and fruit. Garden birds love dried mealworms or waxworms, which can be bought from bird food suppliers.

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  • Keep a close eye on outdoor pets, such as guinea pigs and rabbits, and put extra bedding in their home and be prepared to move them into a shed or unused garage for extra shelter.
  • If horses and ponies are kept outside during the winter they must have access to shelter at all times.
  • Help squirrels survive the coldest times of the year by offering hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds, plus some chopped apple, beans, carrots or spinach.
  • Don’t ignore your pets needs while celebrating. Try to keep a regular routine of feeding and exercising them, it will keep them happy and healthy. Give your pets a treat over the festive season but remember that too much rich food isn’t good for animals. Grapes, sultanas,  raisins and chocolate are toxic to dogs.

RSPCA wildlife expert Nicola Cunningham said: “We can all struggle when the weather takes a turn for the worst, and our wildlife friends are often the most vulnerable. They just need a bit of a helping hand.”

RSPB and Crossrail to restore ancient wetland

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Otters will thrive in the new reserve. FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The biggest man-made nature reserve in Europe will be created on Wallasea Island, using almost five tonnes of earth taken from London’s Crossrail project.

The soil, excavated from the construction of two 21km rail tunnels under the Capital, will transform 670 hectares of farmland on Wallasea Island, Essex, into a labyrinth of salt marshes, mudflats, lagoons.

RSPB  hopes that the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project will see the return of spoonbills and Kentish plovers, as well as  avocet, dunlin, redshank, spoonbills and lapwing to the area. Otters, saltwater fish, including bass, herring and flounder, are expected to use the wetland as a nursery, and plants, such as sapphire, sea lavender and sea aster, are expected to thrive.

The aim of this project is to combat the threats from climate change and coastal flooding by recreating the ancient wetland landscape of mudflats and saltmarsh, lagoons and pasture. It will also help to compensate for the loss of such tidal habitats elsewhere in England.

It is believed the island was first reclaimed from the sea by Dutch engineers centuries ago, but it was bulldozed flat 20 years ago to allow wheat and rape-growing. Four centuries ago there were 30,000 hectares of tidal salt marsh along the Essex coast, but today just 2,500 hectares remain. The Essex estuaries are among the most important coastal wetlands in the UK and are protected by national and European law.

Although the reserve will be in development until around 2019, visitors are welcome to come along and view the progress as each phase comes to life and the marshland naturally regenerates.