Wirral Council may look to ban the ‘evil trade’ of gillnet fishing

Wirral Council may look to ban the “evil trade” of gillnet fishing after concerns that it is killing sharks, seals, porpoises, and birds.

The calls for a ban follow reports of sharks and other wildlife washing up at various points along Wirral’s coastline in recent months. One dog walker said he spotted dozens of sharks on a single trip to the beach.

Though the cause of the animals washing up is not currently known, some believe gillnet fishing could be the reason. Gillnets are nets left hanging in the water to trap fish. Other animals including predators like porpoises can also get entangled and drown.

Photos seen by the LDRS show the carcass of a porpoise entangled in a net in December 2021. Another shows a juvenile herring gull, a species “red listed” caught in a net that was later rescued. Red listed means it is a species whose population is in worrying decline.

At a full council meeting on 10 July, photos of animals caught in gillnets were displayed with Chris Cureton from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, calling for an end to the “shocking” practice.

Chris Cureton from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (orange hi-viz)

He said the Wirral was seeing a “massively disproportionate” rate of cetacean (whale, dolphin, and porpoise) stranding incidents and this was happening so much post-mortem examinations were taking place locally rather than in London.

After raising concerns about nets further inland before, he said he was told the practice was “a case of modern day slavery led by gangmasters and advised me not to approach if I witnessed any net in progress as these people were considered dangerous.” He’s concerned the same situation is happening along the coast too.

He said the nets present “an all you can eat buffet” for predators, adding “It’s no wonder that shark species and apex marine mammals are then found entangled in these nets and inevitably drown or suffocate.” Mr Cureton said the nets were a risk to paddle boarders and kite surfers too.

In response Wirral’s environment and transport committee chair Cllr Liz Grey called on councillors to support a ban, adding: “I know I’m not alone in my concerns about this gruesome practice.”

In response to the concerns, North West Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority is now holding a public event at the West Cheshire Sailing Club in Wallasey between 3pm and 8pm on 27 July inviting people in the area to share their concerns as well as any information they may have.

Later at the 10 July meeting, a motion put forward by Green Party co-leader Pat Cleary passed unanimously calling on the council to look at banning gill netting and call on the government “that the matter be reviewed as a matter of urgency.”

The council’s environment committee will also review council permits for vehicles accessing beaches that could be used to transport nets and gillnet trapped fish.

Cllr Cleary said it was “beyond time that the relevant authorities took action to protect the wide range of marine life around Wirral’s coast line that is impacted by gill-nett fishing,” adding: “It is time for Wirral to catch up.”

He said rises in carbon dioxide and global temperatures linked to global warming alongside overfishing meant “our marine life is under stress like never before.”

Cllr Andrew Hodson who chairs the regulatory committee overseeing fishing on the Wirral said councillors agreed on the issue, adding, “It’s a cruel thing to do to animals and I will do whatever I can to support your party and the other parties to stop this evil trade.”

Main image: Porpoise trapped in gillnet. Credit: Chris Cureton

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? You can also send story ideas to news@birkenhead.news

Share this

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter

Facebook comments

Latest news