Main image: © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace
A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that in the first six months of 2020, supertrawlers almost doubled their fishing time in UK Marine Protected Areas compared with the whole of 2019.
In 2019, supertrawlers spent 2,963 hours fishing in 39 protected areas, while in the first six months of 2020 supertrawlers spent 5,590 hours fishing in 19 protected areas.
Supertrawler operations in the UK’s protected areas have risen significantly every year since 2017. In 2017, supertrawlers spent just 475 hours fishing in UK protected areas, compared with 5,590 hours in 2020.
Some in the fishing community have attributed this increase in activity to Britain’s impending departure from the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy.
Supertrawlers are high-intensity fishing vessels over 100m long, capable of catching and carrying thousands of tonnes of fish.
23 supertrawlers have been operating in UK waters in 2020 so far. Not one of these supertrawlers is UK owned.
The British public overwhelmingly backs a ban on supertrawler operations in UK Marine Protected Areas.
A YouGov poll showed that four in five UK adults back a ban, with support cutting across political divides.
‘Our government cannot continue to allow supertrawlers to fish with ever increasing intensity in parts of our waters that are supposed to be protected. It must step in and put a stop to industrial supertrawler operations within our offshore marine protected areas, something which will be possible after Britain leaves the Common Fisheries Policy.
‘Industrial fishing operations have no place in our protected areas. At least 30% of the UK’s waters should be off limits to all industrial fishing activity in a network of fully or highly protected marine areas. A good start towards achieving this would be to ban supertrawlers from fishing in our protected areas for thousands of hours every year.’
Oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK
Last week over 50 MPs signed an open letter to the Environment Secretary urging him to commit to a ban on supertrawler operations in UK MPAs.
A ban on supertrawlers operating in UK MPAs would be the first step towards designating a network of fully or highly protected marine areas.
These should cover at least 30% of the UK’s waters by 2030, to bring the UK in line with the 30×30 target of having 30% of the world’s oceans fully protected by 2030.
A Greenpeace petition, calling for a ban on supertrawlers operating in UK MPAs, has already gathered 213,000 signatures.