Net loss by Audun Rikardsen, Norway Highly commended, Oceans - The Bigger Picture
In the wake of a fishing boat, a slick of dead and dying herrings covers the surface of the sea off the coast of Norway. The boat had caught too many fish, and when the encircling wall of the purse-seine net was closed and winched up, it broke, releasing tons of crushed and suffocated animals. Audun was on board a Norwegian coastguard vessel, on a project to satellite‑tag killer whales. The whales follow the migrating herrings and are frequently found alongside fishing boats, where they feed on fish that leak out of the nets. For the Norwegian coastguard – responsible for surveillance of the fishing fleet – the spectacle of carnage and waste was effectively a crime scene. So Audun’s photographs became the visual evidence in a court case that resulted in a conviction and fine for the owner of the boat. Overfishing is one of the biggest threats to ocean ecosystems, and according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 60 per cent of fisheries today are either ‘fully fished’ or collapsed, and almost 30 per cent are at their limit (‘overfished’). Norwegian spring-spawning herring – part of the Atlantic herring population complex – was in the nineteenth century the most commercially fished fish population in the North Atlantic, but by the end of the 1960s, it had been fished almost to extinction. This is regarded as a classic example of how a combination of bad management, little knowledge and greed can have a devastating and sometimes permanent effect, not only on the species itself but on the whole ecosystem. The Atlantic herring came close to extinction, and it took 20 years and a near‑ban on fishing for the populations to recover, though it is still considered vulnerable to overfishing. The recovery of the herring has been followed by an increase in the numbers of their predators, such as killer whales, but it is a recovery that needs continued monitoring of herring numbers and fisheries, as Audun’s picture shows.
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II + 14mm f2.8 lens; 1/320 sec at f13 (-0.33 e/v); ISO 1600.