Fishing: Super trawler Margiris roams the English Channel
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Chris Thorne, an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace UK, said by being bold, Boris Johnson can also protect the nation’s struggling fishing communities. Mr Thorne said up to now the UK had been shackled by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Mr Thorne wrote in ConservativeHome: “Brexit is done, and the UK is now stepping out into the world on its own two feet.
“Brexit has divided opinions, no doubt, but the UK has left the European Union so we need to seize the opportunities presented to us to make Brexit a success.
“Perhaps the biggest opportunity presented to us by Brexit is the chance to become a true world leader in protecting our seas.
“For too long now, we have allowed the waters which surround our islands to be degraded by industrial fishing.”
The CFP had made it challenging for the UK to implement stronger restrictions on such practices, regardless of whether vessels hailed from the UK or the EU, Mr Thorne explained.
He added: “Supertrawlers, vast floating fish factories, regularly stalk our seas, hoovering up unimaginably vast quantities of fish with nets up to a mile long.
“No supertrawlers are UK owned.
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“Bottom trawlers from the UK and EU rip up protected seabed habitats, undermining the entire marine ecosystem and indiscriminately killing marine life.
“Bottom trawling also releases significant quantities of carbon that had been stored in seabed sediments, with a recent study in Nature finding that annually, emissions from bottom trawling are equivalent to emissions from the entire aviation industry. The UK has the fourth highest emissions from bottom trawling globally.”
Such “degradation” of the world’s oceans by industrial fishing had serious consequences, not only for the marine environment, but also for climate and, perhaps most importantly, for fishing communities.
Mr Thorne added: “Simply put, if we allow high intensity industrial fishing to continue throughout our seas unchecked, it will become ever more difficult for our fishers to make a living from fishing.
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“This isn’t Greenpeace sensationalism, this is the scientific consensus.
“UK fishers today have to work 17 times as hard for the same size catches as 120 years ago because of industrial overfishing.
“Two thirds of the UK’s key fish stocks are overfished and severely depleted.
“North Sea cod has lost its MSC certification because of dangerous stock declines. British mackerel lost its sustainable status in 2019 after overfishing pushed stocks to the brink of collapse. The list could go on and on.
“This will have serious repercussions for our already struggling coastal communities. More and more fishing jobs will be lost, our fishing communities will be gutted, and for many of these communities, there will be no coming back.”
MPAs offered a “ready-made solution”, Mr Thorne stressed – but presented 97 percent of them were still subject to bottom trawling.
He added: “Supertrawlers can also be found in our protected areas. These high intensity fishing vessels are the largest on earth.
“They have freezer processor facilities on board, allowing them to stay at sea for weeks or months at a time, catching and processing hundreds of tonnes of fish in a day until their holds are filled with thousands of tonnes of fish.
“This harms the long-term health of fish stocks and has wider impacts on the marine ecosystem.
“In many ways, the hard bit is already done. The UK has already designated over 30 per cent of our seas as protected, now all it needs to do is step up and properly look after each protected area, beginning with restricting the most destructive fishing operations inside them.
“In a year when the UK is hosting the G7 and the vital Glasgow climate summit, we should be presenting to the world a positive vision of global Britain as a world leader in environmental protection.
“What better way of doing this than properly protecting our seas?”
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