Ban bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

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Bottom trawling

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are described as “paper parks” in recognition of the fact that marine wildlife is not protected in them. They are next to useless as a conservation zone which is highlighted by the fact that fragile sea life in these zones is being threatened by trawlers owned by companies foreign to the UK.

The Times reports that foreign vessels are responsible for more than half the destructive fishing inside the UK’s offshore protected areas. Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s fiancĂ©e works for the campaign group Oceana. They produced an analysis of fishing in MPAs and discovered that bottom trawling took place in sixty-two of the sixty-four protected areas in 2019 around the UK.

Marine Protected Areas around the UK

Marine Protected Areas around the UK, map licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0, from the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office.

“Bottom trawling” describes dragging a heavy net along the seabed which, as you can imagine, damages it and wildlife. It is described by Chris Thorne, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK as “the same as letting a bulldozer plough through part of a protected forest. This wouldn’t be acceptable on land, and it certainly shouldn’t be acceptable at sea”.

Under the EU’s common fisheries policy bottom trawling is permitted but it is hoped that the UK government will make it illegal when Britain takes back control of its waters next month when the country finally leaves the European Union. It appears that we are going to have a hard Brexit i.e. one which is not based upon a treaty or convoluted agreements which harm the country, and therefore the British people can do what they want after 1 January 2021.

Bottom trawling

Bottom trawling. Image: YouTube.

Bottom trawling occurs most often at the South West Approaches to Bristol Channel Marine Conservation Zone where fishing fleets operated for almost 7,000 hours last year.

Some British fleets are owned by foreign companies. The British fleet owned by a Dutch company spent 24,000 hours fishing inside MPAs. Trawlers from France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and other EU countries spent almost 37,000 hours bottom trawling across the seabed in these so-called protected zones last year.

If the UK government doesn’t do anything about it, after the country leaves the European Union Oceana is considering campaigning with other groups to take legal action against the government. They want UK fishing licences to be issued with a prohibition on bottom trawling within MPAs.