Research by Greenpeace found supertrawlers spent almost 3,000 hours fishing within UK MPAs in 2019. More recently, Greenpeace has found that this activity has almost doubled, with supertrawlers spending some 5,590 hours fishing in UK MPAs in the first six months of 2020.
In the face of declining marine biodiversity and given the central importance of our oceans in combating the climate crisis, it is critical that UK waters and the species that live there are properly protected. I therefore agree that we should ban supertrawlers from fishing in our MPAs and I believe this should have happened already.
I am concerned that there is no sustainable plan for fishing and the restoration of our marine environments, and that practices such as over-fishing and bottom trawling can have disastrous effects on ocean habitats.
During its passage through Parliament, Labour tabled an amendment to the Government’s Fisheries Bill to ban supertrawlers over 100 metres from fishing in MPAs. Not only do I think this would be beneficial for our oceans and marine biodiversity, I believe it would also benefit our own fishing industry and small boat fleet. Indeed, the vast majority of fishing by supertrawlers in UK waters is by foreign-owned vessels. Unfortunately, the amendment was rejected by the Government.
The UK Government states that it is reviewing its policy on supertrawler access to UK waters following the end of the transition period and the UK’s new post-Brexit agreements with the EU.
In my view, the UK Government faces a simple choice: whether it is on the side of British fishers or foreign-owned industrial supertrawlers, harvesting huge quantities of fish and plundering the very habitats that we regard as special.
Please note that marine protection is devolved in Scotland through the Fisheries Act 2020 which gives the Devolved Administrations greater fisheries management powers. According to DEFRA “This means each Administration will tailor their approach based on the specific needs of their industries and waters, enabling a move away from the inflexible and cumbersome Common Fisheries Policy.”