Marine Protected Areas

Supertrawlers spent 2,963 hours fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas in 2019

written by Oceanographic Staff

A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that supertrawlers (freezer trawlers more than 100m in length) spent 2,963 hours fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in 2019, the equivalent of 123 days. As a result of these findings, Greenpeace has launched a petition urging the UK government to ban supertrawlers, which are not compatible with properly protected marine areas, from fishing in MPAs.

None of the 25 supertrawlers that were active in UK waters in 2019 and spent time fishing in 39 UK MPAs are UK owned, but all were operating legally.

supertrawlers UK MPA

“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 3000,” said Chris Thorne, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK. “For our government to be taken seriously as a leader in marine protection, it must ban supertrawler operations in the UK’s 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, or will it allow the flawed status quo to continue?”

The 39 MPAs affected by supertrawlers in 2019 are all in offshore waters (beyond 12nm from the coast). They protect important marine ecosystems and species, including porpoises and reefs. One of the areas most heavily fished in by supertrawlers in 2019 was the Southern North Sea, which was created to safeguard porpoises.They are particularly threatened by supertrawlers – 1,105 porpoises died in fishing nets in 2019.

One of the supertrawlers active in UK waters is UK flagged, the Frank Bonefaas, but is under Dutch ownership. Of the supertrawlers operating in UK waters, 15 are Russian owned, nine are Dutch owned and one is Polish owned.

Banning supertrawlers from fishing in MPAs would be an important initial step towards designating a network of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), as recommended by a recent independent review. Implementing effective bans and properly managed HPMAs is vital to reach the scientifically agreed target of ensuring that at least 30% of the UK’s waters, and 30% of the world’s oceans, are fully protected by 2030.

To sign the petition, “Ban supertrawlers and other destructive fishing from the UK’s offshore Marine Protected Areas and stand up for ocean protection”, click here.

To read the full list of supertrawlers present in UK waters in 2019, click here.

Photograph courtesy of Greenpeace.

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