Authorities set to license fishing vessels for continued backside trawling in UK Marine Protected Areas in 2022

Picture credit score: Nick Fewings 5 Million views photostream, CC BY 2.0 license.

The UK Authorities is about to concern over 1,000 fishing licenses for EU and UK fishing vessels for 2022, it was introduced on 16 December, letting them backside trawl in UK Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). That is in contravention of the Habitats Laws and Marine Acts and will make them unlawful beneath UK law1.

Backside trawling and dredging are at present nonetheless permitted in over 97% – 62 out of a complete of 64 – of the UK’s offshore MPAs. In April 2021, the Authorities dedicated to adopting fisheries administration for all its MPAs by 2024, following authorized points raised by Oceana. Nonetheless, on the present fee of progress – solely 4 MPAs in 2 years – essentially the most damaging and unselective fishing methodology might proceed to be licensed in British protected areas till 2050.

Melissa Moore, Head of UK Coverage at Oceana in Europe, stated: “We want an instantaneous ban on trawling and dredging in all offshore Marine Protected Areas in addition to the inshore zone. To proceed to license this damaging exercise, after we know the harm it causes and that it’s unlawful beneath varied environmental legal guidelines, beggars perception. A easy license situation ought to prohibit fishing in MPAs. We have to defend our marine habitats and in return many may also assist defend us from local weather change by sequestering and storing carbon.” 

Oceana evaluation discovered that of the 68,000 hours of fishing with damaging bottom-towed gear that came about in UK offshore benthic MPAs in 2020, 39% was by UK vessels, particularly off Scotland, 35% by French, and the remaining by different EU states.

A brand new movie launched at this time by Oceana demonstrates the constructive influence {that a} trawling ban can ship for the marine ecosystem. The movie showcases Sussex, the place the Authorities accredited a bylaw launched by Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA) in February this yr, banning trawling in over 170 km2 nearshore space alongside the Sussex coast.2

As we face a local weather and ecological disaster, and with the UK having simply hosted COP 26, Oceana believes there’s extra impetus for the UK authorities to indicate management and to behave directly to handle this damaging exercise in all MPAs.

Backside trawling and dredging contain the towing of very heavy gear alongside the seabed, which frequently destroys the habitats and the species that reside there from biogenic and rocky reefs to deep mud habitats. A latest research additionally discovered that fishing boats that trawl the ocean flooring launch as a lot carbon again into the water column as the worldwide aviation business sends into the environment yearly, and that UK waters are the 4th largest world carbon emitter from 3

Years of backside trawling in Sussex had destroyed the underwater kelp forests, which offered the habitats wanted for a variety of species. Kelp acts each as a house for a large number of animals from lobsters to seals, strengthening marine ecosystems, and as an important defence in opposition to local weather change by capturing and storing carbon dioxide.

Freediver and ocean activist, Steve Allnutt, has been diving off the West Sussex coast because the Nineteen Nineties and documenting modifications to marine habitats and wildlife as a consequence of trawling and different environmental components. Underwater footage captured by Steve off the coast, exhibits how kelp beds, marine life and fish species together with bream, bass, pouting and wrasse have began to return and flourish now that the world is spared from trawling.

Steve Allnutt, freediver and ocean activist, stated: “I hope that Sussex is the start of an enormous domino impact throughout the remainder of the UK. I’ve seen for myself how rapidly the kelp and different marine life can bounce again when it’s left alone by trawlers. Whereas it’s actually encouraging, it’s additionally devastating to consider the destruction that’s nonetheless taking place to the remainder of the UK’s oceans and marine life. The Authorities should observe Sussex’s lead and ban backside trawling from 0 to three nautical miles off the remainder of the coast and in all Marine Protected Areas.”

Business fisher, Clive Mills, who has been fishing within the waters of Bognor Regis since 1976, was additionally emphatic in his help of the ban in Sussex’s inshore space. Clive, who fishes with low –influence sustainable gear corresponding to trammel or gill nets that do no, or minimal, harm to the seabed, reported on the dramatically improved availability of catch for him and different low-impact fishers because the bylaw got here into power.

Commenting on the risk posed by backside trawling to the ocean, fish shares and fishers’ livelihoods, Clive Mills, a sustainable fisher from Bognor Fishermen’s Affiliation, stated: “We have to begin taking care of what we’ve obtained left, as a result of if we don’t, there will likely be nothing left. If we maintain utilizing the gear that’s decimating every thing, we received’t have the ability to do that. If we don’t do it now, when are we going to do it? In 10 years’ time? 20 years’ time? Every single day we depart it, or yearly we depart it, we’re getting nearer to the abyss.”

Oceana is looking for comparable 3nm inshore bans to backside trawling and dredging within the the rest of the UK, in addition to a ban in all Marine Protected Areas, most urgently the offshore MPAs which might be utterly unmanaged. By leaving the inshore space for low-impact fishers corresponding to crab and lobster potters, and banning scallop dredging and backside trawling that harm inshore habitats, this zone will present an essential nursery floor for fish that may assist restock additional offshore. It should additionally see the restoration of blue carbon habitats of kelp, reefs and seagrasses. 

[1[ Oceana considers the issuing of fishing licenses for 2022 that permit the use of bottom-towed gear or other industrial fishing in MPAs would breach the following: (1) the Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017; (2) the Marine and Coastal Access Act, 2009 and Marine (Scotland) Act, 2010; (3) the Marine Strategy Regulations 2010; (4) the Fisheries Act 2020.
[2]’Trawl fishing ban off Sussex coast goals to revive seaweed forests’ https://www.theguardian.com/surroundings/2021/mar/22/trawl-fishing-ban-off-sussex-coast-aims-to-restore-seaweed-forests.
[3] ‘Defending the worldwide ocean for biodiversity, meals and local weather’ https://go.nature.com/3FIIOY8

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