Devon Wildlife Trust launches Wrasse petition, and says new measures are not enough

The Devon Wildlife Trust reports, 14th July 2017: Following our wrasse campaign, new measures have been announced by authorities this week. But DWT believes they do not go far enough to ensure prevention of damage to our Marine Protected Areas.

In June, DWT raised the alarm when we heard that a wrasse fishery had begun in Devon’s inshore waters. Our concerns stemmed from the experience of a previous wrasse fishery in Dorset which removed 57,000 fish during just 18 weeks of operation in 2015. The numbers removed from Devon will now be documented (we haven’t been made aware of the catch size to date) but it is expected to run into the tens of thousands.

Our concerns prompted us to launch the ‘Save our Wrasse’ campaign on the 26 June. Since then the petition has been signed by more than 2,600 people. Many of these petitioners have also contacted their local Devon MPs — and we have had responses from a number of MPs.

Male corkwing wrasse with nest off South Devon by Paul Naylor

Since the wrasse campaign launch, the Devon & Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) has implemented additional management measures, including voluntary unfished refuge areas for wrasse.

These are a welcome step forward and we are encouraged by the swift action by the IFCA.

But Devon Wildlife Trust doesn’t believe that they go far enough to ensure prevention of long term damage to Devon’s delicate marine environment from the commercial fishing for live wrasse for transportation to Scottish salmon farms.

Our specific concerns are:

  1. We still don’t know what the impacts of the wrasse fishery are. How much catch can the sensitive reef habitats sustain?
  2. We have seen nothing to reassure us that the fishery will stop by 2019. The salmon farming representative’s statement to the IFCA that they aim to source wrasse from aquaculture and therefore stop catch from the wild is vague and aspirational.

In light of the above our campaign aims remain the same. We call for:

  •  An immediate and total halt on the live capture of all wrasse species within Marine Protected Areas off the South West coast of England
  •  A proper study to be undertaken into the range and scale of impacts of wrasse fishing, and how to mitigate for them

There is a worrying lack of good evidence as to the impacts of the wrasse fishery. It is recognised that there will be significant local depletions of fish and we expect that recovery will be very slow.

Without detailed information on the impacts of live wrasse fishing on reef habitats it is not possible to determine the sustainability of the fishing activities.

In the overwhelming majority of our seas and coasts economic interests are put before those of wildlife. Our Marine Protected Areas — such as Plymouth Sound and Estuaries SACSAC Special Areas of Conservation — are the final refuges where the protection of designated features legally takes precedence over other interests.

Wrasse are a key part of the reef ecosystems around our coasts and help to maintain the rich balance of wildlife there. We simply do not know what the impacts of removing large numbers of wrasse will be. That’s why we are insisting on a precautionary approach to this fishery within Marine Protected Areas.

Support the Save our Wrasse campaign at


Source: Devon Wildlife Trust, 14th July 2017. For further details, see


Marinet observes: When will the salmon fish farming industry, and the public who consume its product, understand that the business model for this industry is ecologically disastrous?

Indeed the need to understand this reality extends further, and one must ask when the Government will intervene to require the amendment of this appalling business model? What’s more, when will the national environmental NGOs accept that they too have a responsibility to inform the Government and the public of the ecological consequences of this type of factory farming?

Let’s be clear — salmon fish farming as currently practised is factory farming, pure and simple.

When it comes to livestock reared on land, such as poultry and pigs, there is already a groundswell of opinion opposed to factory farming. Yet, when it comes to salmon fish farming opposition is minimal.

Intensive salmon farming where huge numbers of artificially reared salmon are caged up in a confined space leads to disease, and particularly parasites. To combat this, heavy does of chemical pesticides are administered. These leach into the wider environment (both parasites and chemicals), and the consumer product contains pesticide residues and is “manicured” to conceal the existence of their diseased bodies. If this was more widely known, few would readily buy the product.

However who is telling this story? The Government and national marine NGOs?

The reality of all of this has not even begun to embrace the huge impact that feeding of these farmed salmon has on wild fish populations and the ecological balance of our seas – salmon are carnivores, and require to eat around 3kg of wild fish in order to produce 1kg of their own body weight.

Salmon fish farmers now want to try “biological control” of their parasite problem due to sea lice, and are scouring the UK’s seas for Wrasse which, as a part of their natural diet, will eat such creatures — somewhat like birds feeding off the lice and insects living on the back of wild animals in an African game reserve.

The only trouble is that vast numbers of wrasse are required to make this a practical option for the salmon farmers, thus causing devastation to stocks of wild wrasse and the ecological balance of the seas where the wild wrasse live.

Not only that. Many wrasse die as they are transported, rather like African slaves did in the ships when they were transported during the 18th Century across the Atlantic by slave traders, and on reaching their destination the wrasse are then confined within the enclosed space of the salmon farm cages to serve, as slaves, in the delivery of “biological control” for the afflicted salmon.

The whole reality is horrendous.

When will Government and national marine NGOs act to correct this abominable trade? When will they demand that the farming of salmon, if it must exist, follows a business model that has compassion and ecological sense at its heart?

We all deserve better, from the salmon and the wrasse to the consuming public. The time for this is now — sign the Devon Wildlife Trust petition.


Please do share this

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS