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Blocking destructive industrial fishing

Greenpeace UK to create underwater boulder barrier in Marine Protected Area near Cornwall
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
View from the MY Esperanza as a boulder falls into the English channel from the Greenpeace ship

Yesterday (15 August), Greenpeace UK announced imminent plans to build an underwater boulder barrier in a third UK Marine Protected Area to block destructive industrial fishing.

In the coming weeks, Greenpeace’s ship Arctic Sunrise will be sailing to the South West Deeps (East), a Marine Protected Area (MPA) almost 200 kilometres off the Cornish coast, to make a portion of it off-limits to bottom-trawling.

Bottom-trawling is the most destructive type of fishing as it drags weighted nets across the seafloor, tearing up marine habitats. 

Celebrities Stephen Fry, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Simon Pegg and Daniel Lismore are supporting the action. Their names will be stencilled onto the boulders before they are placed on the seabed. 

Fishing in the MPA

The South West Deeps is one of the most heavily fished so-called Marine Protected Areas in the UK.

Between 01 January 2021 and 15 July 2022, the South West Deeps was fished in for nearly 19,000 hours by 110 boats; bottom-trawlers spent more than 3,370 hours fishing in the area.

The majority of industrial fishing vessels in the South West Deeps are from France (53%) followed by Spain (30%) and Great Britain (9%).

‘This is a last resort to save the UK’s marine life; we would prefer that the government did their job of protecting the oceans properly. But we’re taking matters into our own hands for the third year in a row because the government is still failing to stop destructive fishing from decimating marine life in our so-called Marine Protected Areas.

‘Bottom-trawlers wipe out miles upon miles of the UK’s marine ecosystems every single day, but the government has only banned it in a measly four out of 76 offshore Marine Protected Areas. This is just a drop in the ocean – it’s like locking your front door but leaving all your windows wide open. 

‘The future of the UK’s oceans is hanging in the balance, and we’re running out of time to save them from industrial fishing, habitat destruction and climate change. The next PM should ban industrial fishing in Marine Protected Areas by tweaking commercial fishing licences, to show they mean business on protecting nature and supporting fishing communities.’

Greenpeace UK’s executive director

A Global Ocean Treaty

Greenpeace UK announced its third underwater boulder barrier on 15 August, the first day of the UN’s Global Ocean Treaty negotiations at IGC5 in New York.

These talks are a once in a generation opportunity to deliver a strong Treaty that would make it possible to create vast Marine Protected Areas in international waters.

Unless a Treaty is finalised in 2022, it will be practically impossible to deliver ‘30×30’ – protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, a target the UK government has committed to reaching. 

‘I am adding my name to one of Greenpeace’s boulders because I stand in solidarity with the UK’s small independent fishermen. The Government promised that Brexit would be a turning point for fishing in the UK, but now that it has happened, this has turned out to be nothing but empty words. Massive industrial fishing vessels are catching everything in our seas, leaving our fishermen with nothing and making their jobs untenable. 

‘Properly protecting our Marine Protected Areas won’t only help wildlife recover, it will also help our local fishermen recover their livelihoods and bolster our coastal communities. It’s a no-brainer. So why is the Government going back on their promise?’


Achieving 30×30

The government banned bottom-trawling in four MPAs following Greenpeace’s previous boulder actions, and is consulting on bans in a further 13 MPAs.

But this glacially slow pace will not deliver ‘30×30’ in UK waters, and will do nothing to address other types of destructive fishing.

Greenpeace is calling on the government to match its rhetoric by banning bottom-trawling in every UK MPA using fishing licensing restrictions, and fulfil its ‘30×30’ commitments.

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