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Fishing| Fishing

French trawler off Granville, Normandy.

Oceana warns that the British government’s granting of fishing licenses to more than 1,000 vessels from the UK and EU for 2022, which will allow bottom-trawling and dredging within marine protected areas, could be illegal unless conditions are set up to protect ocean habitats.

The group warned George Eustice as secretary of state for environmental issues that any licenses expected to be granted in the next month could be in violation of UK law. This includes the habitats directive which is designed to protect vital marine ecosystems.

Bottom-trawling, dredging, and other activities that can cause severe damage to the seabed, is still allowed in 97% marine protected areas (MPAs). Nearly 25% of the UKs territorial waters is protected, which were established to protect important habitats and species such as harbour porpoises (or dolphins) and other marine life. The MPAs are the most prominent element of the government’s pledge to protect 30% ocean biodiversity by 2030.

Melissa Moore, head of UK policies at Oceana in EuropeShe said that she expected the licensing to be issued this month. These licences could be for massive supertrawlers, or scallop vessels. This legislation is precautionary, regardless of whether it is for scooping up dolphins and dredging seabed.

She stated that the habitat directive requires that before you license, you prove that the license will not have any impact on the site. The government has not done this.

French trawler off Granville, Normandy.
The UK government has already banned bottom-trawling from two marine protected areas. Plans are to add four more including Dogger Bank. Photograph: Nicolas Garriga/AP

Oceanas analysis revealed that 39% of the 68,000 hours of fishing with harmful bottom-towed gear off the UK shore was done by British vessels, particularly off Scotland, 35% were by French vessels, and the rest were by other EU countries.

The government has banned bottom-trawling in two of its offshore MPAs. It plans to ban four more, including the Dogger Bank, under so-called benthic MPAs that protect species that live on seabeds. Oceana estimates that the UK would need to protect all these vulnerable marine areas by 2050 at the current pace of progress.

Moore stated that there should be an immediate ban on trawling in all protected areas offshore and inshore. It is absurd to continue to license this destructive activity when we know the extent of its damage and that it is against various environmental laws. A simple license condition should ban fishing in MPAs.

She said that protecting marine habitats would help to prevent the climate crisis through carbon sequestration and storage.

Oceana wrote that the government failed to properly assess the potential effects of impending licenses on conservation areas in special areas. This was contrary to the law. Regulation 28 of offshore habitats regulations. Oceana warned that the government may not be following marine strategy regulations, which require it to maintain. Good ecological status by December 2020This could be a breach of its duty under the Convention to conserve the marine environment Fisheries ActIf the conditions were not met, the licenses will be revoked.

A small boat in the Channel passes the white cliffs of the south coast
A Greenpeace boat is used to monitor fishing in the Channel. According to the group, bottom-trawling in marine protected zones was like bulldozing national park. Photograph: Fionn Guilfoyle/Greenpeace/PA

Recent research found that fishing boats that trawl along the seabed emit as much carbon annually as the aviation industry. The fourth largest global carbon emissions from trawling came from the UK.

After Oceana raised legal questions, the government made a commitment to adopt fisheries management policies for all its MPAs in April.

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Greenpeace described bottom-trawling marine protected areas in marine protected zones as bulldozing national forests. Will McCallum, Greenpeace UK’s head of oceans said that bottom-trawling in marine protected areas can make the seafloor a disaster zone and release planet-heating carbon. It should be banned.

This destructive fishing method has been limited in two MPAs, out of 64. It is a joke. If the government does not mean one word about being a global champion of the oceans, then ban bottom-trawling or dredging from some our most precious marine environments.

A spokesperson for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated: To protect our vital fish stocks, all EU-based vessels that are granted access to UK waters must comply fully with UK rules and regulations, which include those on sustainability.

We have already stopped pulse trawling by EU-registered vessels in UK waterways and are working closely to address industry concerns regarding bottom-trawling. We have now left the EU and the MMO [Marine Management Organisation]Also, he consulted on additional safeguards to protect several of our offshore marine protected regions.

The Scottish government announced that it would prohibit fishing from 10% of its seas by 2026. A spokesperson said: According to the programme for governmentWe will deliver fisheries control measures for existing marine protected area where they aren’t already in place as well as key coastal biodiversity areas outside of these sites, by March 2024.

We will also designate highly-protected marine areas, which will include all fishing activities and cover at least 10% of our oceans by 2026.

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