Two huge supertrawlers capable of catching thousands of tonnes of fish from British waters – up to 14 times the size of UK boats – are fishing off the south coast of England leading to fears of an “ecological disaster”, according to the Daily Mirror.
The 7,127 tonne Dutch-registered Afrika vessel, which measures 126 metres long by 17 metres wide, has been fishing off the coast of Brighton in the English Channel since Sunday morning.
It was joined earlier this week by another Dutch-registered super trawler – the Willem Van Dee Zwan – a colossal 9,494 tonne ship measuring over 142 metres long and is nearly 20 feet wide.
Environmentalists fear the nets used by the vessels, which are up to a mile long, could be endangering short beaked common dolphins and bluefin tuna.
“This high-volume, large-scale fishing can lead to collapsing fish populations and also harms other marine species through bycatch, including sharks, rays, whales, dolphins and other species,” says Thea Taylor, co-leader of the Brighton Dolphin Project.
“This is not only an ecological disaster as far as marine life is concerned, but also puts our local fishing community, who use sustainable practices, under threat. We last had visits from Supertrawlers last September and October and during this time we recorded two Common Dolphins and a Harbour Porpoise, which washed up dead at the end of September and two unidentified cetaceans and a further Common Dolphin.
“It should be noted that on average roughly 10% of cetaceans caught as bycatch wash up, meaning 90% go unrecorded.”
A Greenpeace investigation found in the first six months of 2020, supertrawlers almost doubled their fishing time in UK Marine Protected Areas compared to the whole of 2019, and last year, supertrawlers spent 2963 hours fishing in 39 protected areas, while in the first six months of 2020 supertrawlers spent 5590 hours fishing in 19 protected areas.
Supertrawlers are high intensity fishing vessels over 100m long, capable of catching and carrying thousands of tonnes of fish.
Twenty-three supertrawlers have been operating in UK waters in 2020 so far.
None of these supertrawlers are UK owned, according to Greenpeace.
A cross-party group of MPs, along with scientists, campaigners and influencers, have signed an open letter to the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, urging him to ban industrial fishing vessels from operating inside the UK’s most ecologically sensitive marine areas and ensure that marine protection is a top priority when Britain leaves the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.
Chris Thorne, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, says: “Destructive industrial supertrawlers have no place in our marine protected areas. Even one hour of a supertrawler fishing in a protected area is too much, let alone thousands. What’s more concerning is the time they spend fishing in our protected areas has almost doubled every year since 2017.”
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