Sun. Nov 29th, 2020

Call for ban on 'supertrawlers' from British marine protected areas

4 min read

Call for ban on ‘supertrawlers’ after Greenpeace investigation reveals 25 giant foreign-owned fishing boats spent 3,000 hours in protected British waters in 2019

  • Dutch-owned Margiris went into a Marine Conservation Zone in English Channel
  • Greenpeace say 25 supertrawlers spent 3,000 fishing hours in protected zones
  • Defra says once Britain leaves the EU it will have the power to ban these trawlers 

Supertrawlers should be banned from fishing in UK owned Protected Marine Areas, according to Greenpeace, who say the giant ‘factory ships’ are ‘destructive’. 

The controversial fishing vessels can be more than 328 feet long and ‘vacuum’ up huge quantities of fish every day as they move through the water.

A Greenpeace study found that 25 supertrawlers – none of which are UK owned – spent nearly 3,000 hours fishing in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in 2019.

Their presence off the UK coast has led to fears over fishing stocks and a potential spike in the number of dolphin deaths, study authors claim.

A Defra spokesman said the EU Common Fisheries Policy restricts our ability to implement tougher protection, but they say leaving the EU will change that.

A Greenpeace study found that 25 supertrawlers – none of which are UK owned – spent nearly 3,000 hours fishing in marine protected areas (MPAs) in 2019

Among the giant trawlers in British marine protected waters was the Dutch-owned Margiris – a 465ft mammoth that was once banned from Australian waters

Marine Protected Areas provide protection for important marine ecosystems and species, including porpoises and reefs. 

Among the giant trawlers in British marine protected waters was the Dutch-owned Margiris – a 465ft mammoth that was once banned from Australian waters. 

One of the areas most heavily fished in by supertrawlers in 2019 was the Southern North Sea zone, off the east coast of England.

This was created as a way  to safeguard porpoises that were living in the area.

Chris Thorne, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said urgent change is needed and new, stricter restrictions on activities in these protected areas.

‘Our Government allowing destructive supertrawlers to fish for thousands of hours every year in Marine Protected Areas makes a mockery of the word ‘protected’.

‘Even an hour of supertrawler activity inside an ecologically sensitive marine environment is too much, let alone almost 3,000,’ said Thorne.

Greenpeace say for the UK government to be taken seriously as a leader in marine protection, it needs to ban supertrawler operations in the Marine Protected Areas.

‘Will our Government heed the recommendations of the Highly Protected Marine Area review and seize the historic opportunity Brexit provides to fix the UK’s broken network of Marine Protected Areas,’ said Thorne.

He said he hoped the government wouldn’t allow the ‘flawed status quo to continue’.

A Defra spokesman said the UK is a global leader in the fight to protect British seas with the Blue Belt of protected waters that are nearly twice the size of England.

‘The Common Fisheries Policy currently restricts our ability to implement tougher protection, but leaving the EU and taking back control of our waters as an independent coastal state means we can introduce stronger measures.’

Supertrawlers should be banned from fishing in protected marine areas in UK owned waters, according to Greenpeace, who say the giant ships are ‘destructive’

Greenpeace say for the UK government to be taken seriously as a leader in marine protection it needs to ban supertrawler operations in the Marine Protected Areas

Greenpeace investigators used AIS tracking data from the Lloyds Register for all fishing boats over 328ft to assess the amount of time spent fishing in UK MPAs.  

In total, supertrawlers logged 2,963 hours fishing in UK marine protected areas in 2019 (the equivalent of 123 days), Greenpeace said.

The MPAs where supertrawlers spent the most time fishing last year were Wyville Thomson Ridge (off the Shetlands), Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope (off the Hebrides) and Offshore Overfalls (south coast).

They also spent time in the Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt (off the Shetlands), Darwin Mounds (off the Hebrides) and Southern North Sea (east of England).

The Wyville Thomson Ridge was overwhelmingly the worst affected MPA, with over 2,000 hours spent fishing there by supertrawlers.

Greenpeace said this is because of the concentration of the Russian supertrawler fleet’s activity there.

The organisation has today launched a petition calling on the Government to ban the huge ships from in MPAs and called on lawmakers to use new-found post-Brexit powers to put a stop to supertrawlers fishing in MPAs.

MARINE PROTECTED AREAS RESTRICT DAMAGING ACTIVITIES IN THEIR BORDERS 

Marine Protected Areas were created to heavily restrict environmentally damaging activities, including certain types of fishing. 

The goal is to preserve marine habitats and wildlife at sea from overfishing or destructive practices that could risk wiping out species.

In the UK these areas create a chain of protection around the coast covering an area that is twice the size of England.

According to the Marine Conservation Society, MPAs are areas of sea that are set up to look after particular seascapes, habitats and species, just like nature reserves and national parks on land.

They help in the protection and recovery of rare and vulnerable wildlife, which would otherwise be threatened with extinction or serious decline.

MPAs also provide places for fish and other marine life to flourish, contributing to a more productive system both inside and outside of their boundaries.

There are 91 zones in waters around England alone and hte first were designated in 2013 – known as the UK Blue Belt. 

There are limits on how strict restrictions can be due to the UK being part of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

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