Back to FISH Vol 28 3
PUBLISHED 1 Dec 2020

Untangling illegal fishing from other crimes

Violations of workers’ rights, forced labour or modern slavery are the predominant crimes associated with illegal fishing in the Asia-Pacific region, CSIRO research reveals.

This is contrary to a common narrative connecting illegal fishing to organised crimes such as drug, human or arms trafficking.

Study leader Mary Mackay from CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere says the findings supported efforts to protect those vulnerable to fisheries exploitation; these efforts will enhance livelihoods, social wellbeing and the sustainability of global fisheries.

“By disentangling illegal fishing from other crimes, we can better focus on solutions to tackle it,” she says. “This will help to ensure sustainable fisheries management and global access to seafood to meet growing protein demand.”

Annual economic losses from illegal fishing are estimated between $35 billion and $68 billion.

Chris Wilcox, research scientist from CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere marine data analytics team, says illegal behaviour in fisheries is often driven by a need to reduce costs and increase revenues. “Our research [a systematic literature review] shows that fishers don’t smuggle on a major scale. Instead, violations relate to the underpay of workers, fishing in prohibited areas and other activities that are closely related to the core business of fishing.”

Refined finish for fish oil

A new way of sustainably processing fish oil can create better dietary omega-3 health and dietary supplements with superior quality, taste and odour.

The vortex fluidic device, developed at Flinders University, South Australia, allows for high-speed processing that lifts the quality of active ingredients of the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in fish oil.

The process was used to enrich the omega-3 fatty acid content of apple juice, remarkably without changing its sensory values, which is important for the consumer, says co-lead author, University of Cincinnati’s Harshita Kumari.

The device raised PUFA levels and purity by lowering oxidation and dramatically improving shelf life compared to fish oil produced by regular industrial homogenisation. Natural bioactive molecules were used in processing, showing that the fish oil medium can take up flavonoids and other health supplements.

ublished in partnership with Guangzhou, Cincinnati and Flinders universities, and with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), the research is further proof of the value of rapid vortex fluidic green chemistry processing.

Blenny clues to evolution

Blennies are a remarkable fish family. Not only have some made a dramatic transition from water to land, they are also providing scientists with a unique insight into evolution.

“Some species of blennies never emerge from water and others stay on land full-time as adults – so they present an opportunity to study fish evolution in action and explore the transition from water to the land in a living animal,” says University of New South Wales (UNSW) evolutionary ecologist and study lead Terry Ord.

The UNSW and University of Minnesota collaboration analysing big datasets found flexible behaviour; for example, a diverse diet and leaving the water for very brief periods of time, has likely allowed blennies to make a successful leap onto land. This insight can be extended to any species making a move between habitats and might have other implications.

“The flipside of our study suggests that some species already uniquely specialised to their existing environment are probably less able to make further transitions in habitat, or might not cope well if abrupt changes occur to their environment, for example, as a consequence of the current climate crisis,” Terry Ord says.

While the blenny had a diverse diet in the water, it faced restrictions on land. “These restrictions have triggered major evolutionary changes in their morphology, specifically dramatic changes in their teeth, as they have been forced to become specialist ‘scrapers’ of the rocks to forage on algae and detritus,” he says.