Protection from bottom trawling
Greenpeace installed the natural rock protection in the Dogger Bank and Offshore Brighton MPAs to close parts of these protected areas to destructive bottom trawling.
This fishing method ploughs the seabed, destroying marine habitats, disturbing vast stores of blue carbon and endangering the long-term health of fish populations.
Both MPAs exist specifically to protect seabed habitats, but there were no restrictions on fishing activity in either MPA when Greenpeace constructed its boulder barriers.
Trawling the seabed
In 2019, bottom trawlers spent 60,000 hours ploughing protected areas of seabed. This figure rose to 68,000 hours in 2020.
Offshore Brighton, one of the MPAs that exists to protect seabed habitats was ploughed by bottom trawlers for 3,099 hours in 2019.
Greenpeace, along with the Marine Conservation Society, revealed earlier this year that 26.5 million tonnes of carbon is stored in the seabed in the UK’s offshore protected areas alone.
The MMO’s previous director of operations, Phil Haslam, decided to prosecute Greenpeace; he has since moved from the MMO to industrial fishing company North Atlantic Holdings, as its managing director.
Ban bottom trawlers from MPAs
Since installing the natural rock protection in both MPAs, the UK government has consulted on closing four large MPAs to bottom trawling.
These include the Dogger Bank, where Greenpeace’s first boulder barrier was constructed.
The outcome of this consultation, and whether these will be full closures of the entire MPAs to bottom trawling, has yet to be seen.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Greenpeace will argue that the MMO has no jurisdiction over the actions of the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, and is trying to twist its licensing powers to prohibit Greenpeace’s actions when they should be used for marine preservation.
Greenpeace is calling for the case to be thrown out, and for the UK government to take urgent action to protect our oceans from industrial fishing by banning bottom trawlers and supertrawlers from all of the UK’s MPAs.