The government has today (17 Jan) announced a consultation to manage fishing in offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in England, including proposals for byelaws to protect some marine habitats from bottom-trawling in 13 MPAs.
While steps to manage fishing in Marine Protected Areas are welcome, Greenpeace campaigners say the consultation process is ‘too sluggish and cumbersome’ to match the urgency of the oceans crisis.
The government’s approach to reef protection doesn’t go far enough, as they’re not proposing site-wide bans and therefore don’t address the damage caused to the whole ecosystem by other forms of industrial fishing.
A new report released by Greenpeace in December shows that the majority of so-called Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) across the UK are being decimated by destructive fishing, and preventing this problem cannot come soon enough.
It found that 92% of the UK’s so-called MPAs do not have site-wide protection against the most destructive types of fishing.
In 2021 alone, vessels with bottom-towed gear spent an estimated 47,833 hours fishing in UK offshore MPAs.
Almost a third (32%) of the UK’s MPAs have no fishing restrictions across the majority of their site, meaning 122 of these ‘protected’ areas are substantially open to all kinds of destructive fishing 365 days a year.
‘This is a step forward for UK marine protection, but progress remains way too slow in the face of the industrial fishing frenzy.
‘We have to cut through the government’s spin; they claim to be protecting all 40 English offshore MPAs – but as long as supertrawlers and fly shooters are still allowed to plough our waters, leaving nothing for local fishermen to catch, there’s no way these plans can be called ambitious.
‘We need all destructive industrial fishing to be banned in every single MPA as soon as possible. This is all too slow and piecemeal to meet the scale of the threat to our oceans.
‘If the UK government wants to keep calling itself a global leader in marine protection, it needs to start by delivering 30×30 at home.
‘Therese Coffey should use post-Brexit powers to immediately ban all forms of industrial fishing in MPAs, by adding a condition to boats’ fishing licences. She already has the power to do so – all she needs is the will to make it happen.’
Head of oceans at Greenpeace UK