Being part of the EU has prevented the UK government from properly protecting UK waters from bottom trawling by vessels from Russia, France, the Netherlands and Denmark. In the EU you have to have the agreement of all the parties before you restrict fishing in certain areas and in the UK there are 71 protected areas offshore between 12 and 200 nautical miles from the coast. One of these areas is Dogger Bank.
Dogger Bank is an important habitat for critically endangered species such as skate. The marine wildlife there is a food source for porpoises and it is the habitat for species such as hermit crabs and flat fish. It is the largest shallow sandbank in British waters.
There are 350 marine protected areas in UK waters but they are simply not protected adequately for the reasons mentioned above. They are described as “paper parks” because they are protected on paper but not in reality.
The UK’s fisheries minister, Victoria Prentis, is under pressure from organisations such as the Blue Marine Foundation to start protecting these areas. They have threatened the government with a judicial review application in the High Court unless she commits to protecting Dogger Bank and other conservation areas from January 1 which is when the UK leaves the EU conclusively. At that point Britain can take control of its waters.
Charles Clover, executive director of Blue Marine Foundation said that Dogger Bank used to be the home for giant halibut as big as a man and common skate the size of a dining room table but they are now critically endangered because of “centuries of trawling”.
A National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations’ spokesperson said that the overfishing of these areas has been exaggerated but they were prepared to discuss their protection. They believe that some bottom trawling can be compatible with conservation.