Petition to ban gillnet fishing as more sharks wash up on beach

People in Wirral are petitioning to ban a type of fishing as more and more sharks wash up on the beaches in the area.

Mick Preston, who lives in Meols, was walking along Leasowe Beach when he counted 25 sharks along a small stretch of sand. He said since May 17, he has continued to see more and more wash up on the beach.

Recent photos taken in the area have shown a shark cut in half as well as buckets full of cockles – even though fishing for cockles is now banned in Wirral.

Fishing for cockles is banned on the Wirral. Credit: Mathew Bett

Some in the local community believe that fishing nets are to blame. The practice of gillnet fishing is allowed in the UK but Mr Preston wants to see it banned, concerned it might be the reason sharks and other animals keep washing up on the beach.

However, there are a number of reasons animals may be washed up from boat traffic, old age, attacks from other animals, environmental factors, and sound disturbances.

North West Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (NWIFCA) are currently investigating the issue and Wallasey MP Angela Eagle has also written to the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs to look into it further.

On May 21, local resident Mathew Bett said he headed out to check the shoreline after seeing reports of dead fish accumulating. He posted on social media to say, “I couldn’t believe the amount dead. Some had been dead for a few days and some weren’t that long dead due to hardly any scavenger damage to them.

“Must have been about 40 to 50 spread from Leasowe Lighthouse to the channel just by Leasowe Castle. All their gills had been injured.”

Mr Preston said, “We need gillnetting banned. Every year dead porpoises, seals, and various fish often referred to as by catch are always washed up on our beaches.

“This is not acceptable for the tourism of our coastline nor is it acceptable for the people who live here and frequent the beaches with kids and families.”

He added, “The River Mersey and surrounding waters of Wirral and Liverpool have seen a dramatic battle against pollution. Now we are getting nearer to a cleaner river, we have seen so many new species of fish and mammals returning to the coastline.

“This has encouraged them to use the areas as breeding grounds but how long before these are not present in our waters anymore?”

Mr Preston also doesn’t think NWIFCA is doing enough to tackle the issue though it’s understood the area is regularly inspected throughout the year.

An NWIFCA spokesperson previously said, “Under current local and national legislation, it is not illegal to fish using gill-nets on foot in the Mersey Estuary, nor discard unwanted by-catch from those nets. NWIFCA officers regularly patrol the area and conduct inspections of this fishery to ensure compliance with specific regulations regarding the physical make-up of the nets in use.

“As a modern regulator, we are keen to receive and review evidence which enables us to consider how best to manage and regulate inshore fishing activity in the future. We would ask that any members of the public who have concerns regarding any fishing activity in the area contact us via our email”

A link to the petition can be found here

Shark found washed up near Leasowe. Credit: Mathew Bett

What is gillnetting?

Gillnetting is a fishing technique that employs gillnets, which are vertical panels of netting suspended from a line.

These nets have regularly spaced floaters that keep the line on the water’s surface. The floaters are sometimes called “corks,” and the line equipped with corks is commonly known as a ‘cork line.’

The lower edge of the panels usually contains weights to keep it submerged. Traditionally, lead has been used as the weight material, and this lower line may be referred to as the “lead line.”

Main image: A shark found washed up on the beach in north Wirral. Credit: Mick Preston

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