Fishing industry still ‘drenching’ the sea floor in 90% of the UK’s marine protected areas | fishing industry

More than 90% of Britain’s MPAs are still bottom trawled and dredged, two years after the extent of the destructive fishing was analyzed. Reveal them as “paper gardens”According to data shared with The Guardian.

The UK’s marine park network, which was set up to protect vulnerable areas of the seabed and marine life, is a cornerstone of the government’s goal of Protect 30% of the ocean’s biodiversity by 2030.

But an analysis of fishing vessel tracking data from Global Fishing Watch (GFW) and Oceana, a conservation NGO, found that tug fishing took place last year in 58 of the 64 “benthic” marine reserves, which are intended to protect Species that live on the bottom of the sea. It found that a total of 1,604 vessels, including industrial boats, spent 132,267 hours fishing in these UK marine protected areas.

Ships with bottom hauling gear — the most destructive type of fishing, which involves dragging weighted nets across sea floor habitats — spent at least 31,854 hours in marine reserves in 2021. That’s likely an underestimate, Oceana said, as It could only select gear type 837 boats, just over half of those discovered, due to a lack of publicly available data. She added that the vast majority were industrial ships.

trawl net map

When ships with gear fish in marine parks, they prevent the recovery of ecosystems that have already been lost to decades of exploitation, and limit the seafloor’s ability to store carbon and combat the effects of the climate crisis. Greenpeace has described this type of fishing in marine reserves as akin to “national park dredging”.

Seabed trawling has been banned so far, with four more being protected in June.

Melissa Moore, Oceana’s UK head of policy in Europe, said Oceana’s analysis was “further evidence that this malicious activity is widespread. However, contrary to the laws of nature, the UK and devolved governments still authorized this to happen throughout 2022 as well, against the laws of nature.” .They are destroying habitats for the future.”

After Brexit, the UK granted licenses to thousands of ships to fish in all UK waters, including all but two of the MPAs. “No other activities are licensed, neither homes nor roads or ports, and they are subsequently evaluated,” Moore said. “However, this is what happens to fishing, even though the law makes it clear that you do not have to license activities until it has been demonstrated that there is no negative impact on the site.”

The Marine Habitat Regulations He says that no activities can be licensed in special protection zones unless the assessment confirms that they will not negatively affect the “integrity” of the site. In April, after Oceana and other groups raised legal concerns, the government committed to for the approval of the Fisheries Administration for all marine protected areas by 2024.

The UK has had powers to ban trawling in marine protected areas since Brexit, under the Fisheries Act 2020. Two years later, no bans were imposed, although on June 13 new laws were introduced to criminalize the practice. In four marine reserves came into force.

They include the punk dogger, a North Sea breeding ground for commercial species including cod and whitefish, as well as sand eels—which are eaten by cutaways, puffins, and porpoises. It is also an important site for blue carbon, the carbon dioxide that is sequestered and stored in coastal and marine ecosystems.

The four marine protected areas represent one tenth of the marine protected areas, leaving 90% unprotected. Last month, the government announced that a 13 others are being examinedAs part of her “liberties post-Brexit to protect rare and valuable marine habitats and species”.

But NGOs have condemned the government’s plans as “too slow” and “unambitious” and unlikely to meet its 2030 target of protecting 30% of the ocean. They say setting licensing requirements for all industrial vessels, and banning them from fishing in marine reserves, would allow for faster and better protection.

Charles Clover, CEO of Blue Marine, said: “The government was obligated to protect these areas on day one of Brexit. They are lagging so far in compliance. [with] Their own laws, it’s confusing. And it makes them vulnerable to legal challenges.”

Will McCallum, from Greenpeace said: “It took two years for the government to impose a trawling ban on four protected areas. The whole thing takes a very long time and in the end, you have a ban on one type of gear – down gear. But, in terms of Theoretically, the Giant Crawl could go straight though.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “It is incorrect to say that little has changed. We have passed the historic Fisheries Act of 2020, are consulting on the Joint Fisheries Statement, and are stopping trawling and destroyed cliffs in four protected areas. marine, and we have requested evidence to support the management of an additional 13 marine protected area sites. The UK’s £100 million Seafood Trust supports innovation and sustainability, to ensure our fishing sector is the most sustainable in the world.”

Defra is Expected to consult Soon in Marine Highly Protected Areas – designated as areas that allow Protecting and restoring marine habitats By banning destructive fishing methods.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to designating Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10% of Scotland’s coastal and marine waters by 2026 – before the end of the current Scottish Parliament. This is a world-leading commitment – it meets the target of EU of 10% but in a shorter time frame.

“HPMAs will ban all extractive, destructive and sedimentary activities and only allow other activities at harmless levels. We have committed to introduce fisheries management measures for existing MPAs, where they do not already exist, by March 2024 at the latest.”