A fishing emergency

Fishers join Greenpeace to declare an emergency in English Channel and Southern North Sea

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 10 September 2021

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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Main image: © Kristian Buus / Greenpeace

Greenpeace, fishers, anglers, charter skippers and fishing businesses have come together to declare a state of emergency in the English Channel and Southern North Sea.

Fishing groups from Eastbourne, Hastings, Thanet, Newhaven and Lowestoft, along with the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA), New Economics Foundation, Angling Trust, fishing businesses Sole of Discretion and Pesky Fish and Greenpeace, have signed a joint statement calling for the UK government to take urgent measures to protect fishing communities and our oceans.

These measures include permanent bans for supertrawlers, bottom trawlers and fly-shooters in all marine protected areas more than 12 nautical miles from the coast in the English Channel, and a ban on pelagic trawlers over 55m and fly-shooters in the entire English Channel and Southern North Sea, on the grounds of the precautionary objective in the Fisheries Act.

‘It’s really quite simple, the small scale coastal fleet that the government has sworn to protect is now forced to watch their present and future livelihoods being destroyed in front of their eyes, firstly by the huge fleet of powerful EU owned fly-shooters that inexplicably have had all catch limits removed for their target species, and secondly, by massive EU midwater trawlers reducing the resilience of stocks in the channel to the impact of climate change whilst threatening dolphin and porpoise populations. Tragically, it appears to be only Greenpeace that has been willing to lend its political and practical weight in defence of our coastal fishermen and communities.’

JERRY PERCY
Director of the New Under 10s Fishermen’s Association

Supertrawlers in UK waters

Fishers along the south and east coasts have had their livelihoods devastated after years of unchecked industrial fishing by pulse trawlers, supertrawlers and fly-shooters.

This has severely depleted fish populations, particularly in inshore waters, leaving some local fishers with nothing left to catch. Less than one-third of key UK fish populations are in a healthy state.
 
Supertrawlers, all of which are EU owned, spend thousands of hours fishing in UK waters annually, including in marine protected areas.

Supertrawler fishing times in UK marine protected areas increased by 1000% between 2017 and 2020.

Industrial fly-shooters began focusing operations on UK waters off the south and east coast following the electric pulse trawling ban. Fly-shooting is a highly efficient industrial fishing method with immense catching capacity, which poses a threat to fish populations and the seabed.


‘We’ve been at sea all summer bearing witness to the destruction taking place in the English Channel and nearby waters. We’ve worked closely with local fishers, and when you’re on the water with them, it’s very clear; our fishing communities are at breaking point. They won’t survive much longer without urgent action from the government.

‘Fishing communities, anglers, charter skippers and environmental groups alike support these measures which will be an important step towards fully protecting at least 30% of our oceans by 2030. We hope that by coming together to fight for the same thing, our government will finally start taking practical steps towards delivering this goal. If these requests are ignored, it’s clear that ministers are siding with the multinational fishing companies who are wrecking our oceans, instead of the local fishers who are the backbone of our coastal communities.’

CHRIS THORNE
Oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK

‘Act with an urgency’

A recent Greenpeace investigation revealed that one-third of the membership of the UK’s largest industrial fishing lobbying group, the National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations (NFFO), is made up of European fishing companies. This group has lobbied against supertrawlers being banned from marine protected areas.

The joint statement calls on the UK government to act with an urgency that reflects the state of emergency facing fishers along the south and east coasts of England.

‘My name is John Nichols. I’ve been fishing since August, 1972. We’re a shrinking fleet here. Now, we’ve got 18 vessels in Ramsgate. We’re down to probably 14 of those being reasonably active or active. 10, 15 years ago, we was twice the number. They’re dropping out, not because they want to drop out, but because the quota and what’s available is such that you struggle to earn an honest living.’

JOHN NICHOLS
A local fisherman in Ramsgate

These measures would boost catches for local fishers, revive coastal communities and provide space for marine ecosystems and fish populations to recover from years of devastation by industrial fishing.

This would also be a vital step towards the UK government delivering its target of protecting 30% of the UK’s and the world’s oceans by 2030.

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