An American voyager, Victor Vescovo, has broken the record for the deepest dive ever by descending nearly 11km to the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench, the lowest place in the ocean. The 4-hour dive in the submarine “DSV Limiting Factor”, built specifically to endure the immense pressure of the deep ocean uncovered what looks like four new species of prawn-like crustaceans called amphipods. The dive also saw a spoon worm at about 7,000m depth and and a pink snailfish at 8,000 m. Unfortunately, the dive also uncovered plastic pollution in the form of what the team thinks is a plastic bag and some sweet wrappers on the ocean floor. Confirmation is still ongoing. The 10,927m dive is the third time humans have descended to the deepest point in the ocean preceded only by Canadian film-maker James Cameron in 2012 reaching a depth of 10,908 meters and before that by the US Navy in 1960, reaching a depth of 10,912 meters, beating the record with a mere 15 meters.
January marked the successful completion of the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project’s electronic monitoring pilot program in Ghana. A celebration was organised by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development of the Republic of Ghana with representatives from all stakeholders including the World wildlife Fund (WWF), international Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) and the Ghana Tuna Association (GTA) participating in the event. As part of the festivities, there was a formal transfer of the equipment from the project to the Ghanaian authorities.
Sales of seafood products carrying the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainability logo amounted to approximately €6.8 billion for the financial year to March 2018, an increase of €2.3 billion from the previous financial year according to estimates from the MSC. According to the annual report, the increase in sales were a result of the 912,785 metric tonnes of MSC-labelled products sold and the calculated 40% global average retail mark-up from wholesale values for products containing the MSC eco-label. MSC continues to grow. An additional 3,795 companies adopted the MSC logo globally in 2017-18 resulting in 28,250 products with the sustainability label. In the period 2017-2018 10 million metric tonnes of certified global catch was exceeded, which represents 13% of the total global marine catch. In addition, MSC saw revenue increase 20% in the financial year to 31 March 2018. MSC aims to certify 30% of global catch by 2030, according to Rupert Howes, the chief executive.
MSC certificates for two European fisheries will be suspended from March 12, 2019. Independent certifier Bureau Veritas issued a notice of suspension for the South of Brittany purse seine sardine fishery in France and the Spanish Bay of Biscay purse seine sardine fishery based on updated advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). ICES revised the understanding of the sustainability of the sardine stock and accordingly advised a reduction in fishing effort. According to ICES the Bay of Biscay sardine stock remains healthy, but the fishing effort is significantly higher than what is consistent with achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield. These issues pose a threat to low trophic level and short-lived species like sardines as their populations experience large fluctuations over short time frames. Spokespersons for the two fisheries said they were disappointed with the notice of suspension, but they understood the need for a strong management plan for the sustainability of the stocks. They reiterated their commitment to work together with fisherman and the science community to ensure the viability of the fishery for future generations. All is not lost for the two fisheries, they have 90 days from the date of the Notice of Suspension to formulate a corrective action plan. If the fisheries can implement mechanisms which ensure catches are in line with the new advice the notice will be rescinded, and the certification will remain.
Petrozavodsk, capital of the Republic of Karelia, the leading region for rainbow trout aquaculture in the Russian Federation, hosted the International Trout Forum “Modern Technologies. Security and legal regulation” on 12-13 March 2019. The event was organised by the Government of the Republic of Karelia, the Federal Agency for Fisheries of Russia, and the National Agency for Social Communication, with support from the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation. More than 350 representatives of Russian and international companies and organisations, research and educational institutions, federal and regional administration, local governments, as well as students of Petrozavodsk State University participated in the forum. Vasiliy Sokolov, Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Fisheries of Russia, reported that aquaculture production in the country surpassed 238 000 tonnes in 2018, a three-fold increase since 2005. The North-Western Federal district, where the Forum was held, was the second largest district of Russia after the Southern district with 59 500 tonnes of aquaculture production in 2018. Vladimir Labinov, Deputy Prime Minister of the government of the Republic of Karelia and the Minister of agriculture and fisheries of the Republic of Karelia noted the need to reduce administrative barriers if the sector was to develop. The event also discussed the creation of a platform for the exchange of experience and dialogue between government, the scientific establishment, civil society, and industry. Buoyed by the response to the meeting the organisers have decided to hold the forum annually.
At this year’s London Marathon, runners were given small edible seaweed pods filled with sports drink. The use of seaweed pouches helped reduce more than 20% of plastic bottles used at the event. London Marathon organizers replaced 200 000 plastic bottles with these innovative seaweed pouches. The seaweed bags, produced by Skipping Rocks Lab, can be chewed to release the contained liquid and consumed entirely, or if preferred, the seaweed film can be discarded where it will break down naturally in 4-6 weeks.
Organización de Productores Asociados de Grandes Atuneros Congeladores (OPAGAC) is an association of nine frozen tuna seiner fishing shipowners. Its fleet, consisting of 47 tuna seiner ships, catches 380,000 tonnes a year, 8% of the global catch, and fishes in the three main oceans in the world - Atlantic, Indian and Pacific. OPAGAC has begun the process of having its fisheries assessed to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard to have them certified as sustainable. The assessment is the result of a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) that OPAGAC developed in collaboration with the WWF since 2016, the objective of which is to achieve MSC certification for the 12 stocks targeted by OPAGAC vessels. And it is in line with a commitment made at the 2017 international Our Ocean conference to obtain MSC certificate for all its captures by 2021. A spokesperson from Lloyd’s Register, the independent certification body carrying out the assessment, said that it was the largest tuna fleet in the world to apply for MSC certification on this scale. Sustainability certificates are becoming increasingly important for access to important seafood markets around the world and OPAGAC’s decision to seek certification is likely to encourage other tuna fleets to consider it as well.
Technology is playing an ever greater role in the seafood industry both on land and at sea. Industry 4.0, IoT (internet of things), blockchain, cloud computing, robotics, and artificial intelligence, are among the terms being used today in connection with the seafood industry. Another technology, holography, used to produce holograms, devices widely used on credit cards to provide authenticity and prevent counterfeiting, is now being deployed to tackle illegal fishing in the Indian state of Kerala.
Scientists and industry representatives from 16 countries gathered in Tromsø, Norway in the middle of June to launch a new EU-funded project, AquaVitae. The 36 project partners are from European countries as well as Brazil, South Africa, Namibia, and North America.
China’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister, Han Changfu confirmed that China has remained the world's largest exporter of aquatic products for 17 consecutive years with exports having exceeded 20 billion US dollars (18 billion EUR). More than 97 percent of products live up to standards according to a market monitoring report, the minister mentioned at a symposium according to ChinaDaily.
Modern technological advances continue apace in the seafood industry. Recently, an unmanned, remote-controlled vessel carried a shipment of British oysters from the UK, to Belgium, in an international trade first.
Carrying five kg of oysters, the 12-meter ship’s 22-hour trip across busy shipping lanes was directed from a control room in Maldon and was supported by the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Department for Transport, the Foreign Office, officials in Belgium and the European Space Agency.