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Fly-shooting UK waters

New industrial fleet fished UK waters and MPAs for 32,000 hours in 2020 without government impact assessment
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Fly-shooting UK waters

Main image: © Andrew McConnell / Greenpeace

A Greenpeace investigation has found that vessels licensed for industrial fly-shooting, a high-intensity fishing method that disturbs the seabed, spent approximately 32,000 hours fishing in UK waters in 2020.

Around 16,000 hours were spent in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

75 industrial fishing vessels were licensed to fly-shoot in UK waters without a full environmental or economic impact assessment of this fishing method by the UK government.

Next week (22 September), fishers and Greenpeace will sail up the Thames to the House of Parliament in protest against the government’s failure to safeguard our oceans and fishing communities.

Trawling the seabed

Industrial fly-shooting is estimated to be up to 11 times more efficient than traditional inshore trawling and involves dragging heavy weighted gear along the seabed.

60 of the 75 industrial fly-shooters licensed to fish in UK waters are EU flagged.

Data on fishing hours is only available for 40 of the 75 industrial fly-shooters, meaning this analysis underestimates the fleet’s total fishing time.

A state of emergency

Last week, Greenpeace and fishers declared a state of emergency in the English Channel and Southern North Sea, where the new fly-shooter fleet has concentrated its operations.

The declaration calls for a full ban on pelagic trawlers over 55m and fly-shooters in the English Channel and Southern North Sea, along with bans for supertrawlers and fly-shooters in offshore MPAs in the English Channel.

‘Industrial fly-shooters are devastating fish populations, damaging protected marine habitats and endangering the livelihoods of small-scale fishers. What’s worse, the UK government licensed this destructive new industrial fleet without bothering to do a full environmental or economic impact assessment.

‘Our government loves to praise itself as a world leader on marine protection, and has admirably backed calls to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. However, closer to home, almost anything goes in UK waters. We stand in solidarity with fishers whose livelihoods are at risk because of our government’s inability to protect our waters from industrial fishing. Next week, together with fishers, we will be sailing to parliament to make clear that enough is enough. Our oceans and our fishing communities need urgent protection.’

Oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK

Endangering livelihoods

Greenpeace UK investigators used Global Fishing Watch data to assess how long vessels licensed for industrial fly-shooting spent fishing in UK waters, and to estimate how long they spent in protected areas.

Fishers in the UK and France have said the fleet is having a ‘devastating’ impact on the health of fish populations, and endangering their livelihoods.

The New Under Tens Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA) has revealed that the UK government licensed this fleet without having complete catch records for any of the vessels’ operations in UK waters.

NUTFA has also highlighted that the government removed catch limits targeting non-quota species for 2021 for fly-shooters in UK waters.

Caroline Lucas MP joined a Greenpeace Operation Ocean Witness patrol in July and witnessed Larche, a French flagged fly-shooter, operating in the Bassurelle Sandbank protected area. She held a banner reading ‘This is a marine protected area’ in front of Larche, which after radio contact with Greenpeace activists hauled its gear and left the protected area.

Greenpeace and fishers together are calling for fly-shooters, supertrawlers and bottom-trawlers to be banned from all offshore MPAs in the English Channel, and for pelagic trawlers over 55m and fly-shooters to be banned from the entire Southern North Sea.

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