Western Morning News
Call for ban on ‘supertrawlers’ in protected seas
GREENPEACE UK has urged the Prime Minister to ban ‘supertrawlers’ from the UK’s network of marine protected areas.
It comes after politicians and conservationists have raised concerns about the giant factory ships threatening to plunder Westcountry waters.
Speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Boris Johnson said after Brexit the UK “will be able to ban these huge hoover trawlers that come in and hoover up everything off the bottom of the sea”.
Greenpeace UK’s head of oceans, Will McCallum, said: “The Prime Minister has just claimed that, now the UK has left the EU, the Government will take action against the large-scale destructive fishing that is hoovering up fish at an unsustainable rate, often in some of the UK’s most sensitive marine environments.
“If he meant what he said, he should take the immediate step of banning bottom-trawling and supertrawlers over 100 metres long from the entirety of the UK’s network of marine protected areas.
“Unless we start properly protecting these fragile habitats from the most damaging examples of industrial fishing, the UK cannot lay claim to being a world leader in ocean protection.”
Last year, small-scale fishermen and conservationists in the South
West watched with trepidation news of supertrawlers plying the sea off the south coast.
The 142-metre long Margiris, one of the world’s biggest supertrawlers, was netting pelagic species such as horse mackerel and pilchards just a few hours away from Westcountry waters and there were fears it, and others like it, would scoop up vast shoals around our coast.
The Lithuanian-registered vessel – thought to be the secondlargest in the world and owned by the Dutch company Parlevliet & Van der Plas – was banned from fishing in Australian waters in 2013. However, the company says it has an “excellent reputation for sustainable fishing”.
It emerged in 2020 that industrial supertrawlers, which act as floating factories, pumping the catch on-board directly from the net and processing tonnes of fish a day, hugely increased the amount of time spent fishing in the UK’s protected areas of sea – and Plymouth MP Luke Pollard was among those calling for a ban on the vessels in biodiverse protected zones.
An investigation by Greenpeace suggested large, intensive fishing vessels spent 5,590 hours fishing in marine protected areas in UK waters in the first six months of 2020.
That was almost double the 2,963 hours supertrawlers spent fishing in the conservation zones, which are designated to protect wildlife and habitats, in the whole of 2019, the analysis suggested.
In 2020 the industrial fishing vessels, none of which are UKowned, were recorded in 19 marine protected areas.
Greenpeace has been calling for a ban on supertrawlers, which are more than 100 metres long and capable of catching and carrying thousands of tonnes of fish, from marine protected areas.
Polling suggests high levels of public support for a ban on supertrawlers in UK marine protected areas, the campaigners said, while more than 50 MPs signed a letter in 2020 urging the Environment Secretary to make such a move.
Shadow environment secretary Mr Pollard, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport MP, said last year: “The Government needs to step up to properly protect the most sensitive areas of British waters from this industrial scale plunder which is destroying precious biodiversity.”
The Blue Planet Society has warned of the risks of bycatch of common dolphins, endangered bluefin tuna and sea bass.
‘Unless we start properly protecting these fragile habitats, the UK cannot lay claim to being a world leader in ocean protection’