Surge of supertrawlers killing dolphins and destroying fish stocks, say ocean activists

A sudden influx of supertrawlers off the English coast is killing dolphins and causing an unprecedented level of unsustainable fishing, marine campaigners have told The Independent.

Ten factory ships have arrived in the English Channel in the past three weeks.

Activists who have documented dolphins and porpoises washed up on beaches say deaths invariably rise when the giant fishing vessels appear.

Supertrawlers are industrial vessels more than 100m long with nets measuring up to a mile, which catch hundreds of tonnes of fish a day. Their bycatch includes dolphins, porpoises and seals.

Marine wildlife monitors say the vessels are destroying fish stocks, killing non-target species, harming sustainable fishing communities and destroying marine ecosystems.

Will McCallum, Greenpeace head of oceans, told The Independent it was possible that the industrial fleets were making a show of their historic fishing rights close to UK waters before Brexit.

Some were legally going in Marine Protected Areas, he said. “What the government calls protected areas are protected in name only.

“Come 1 January, the government gets new powers in areas beyond 12 miles to ban supertrawlers from MPAs so we’re calling on them to do that but so far they’ve only conceded five will be shut to supertrawlers.”

Animals such as porpoises that drown in the giant nets are cut out of them when hauled in so that they do not damage the nets. They are then thrown overboard.

Four dead dolphins that washed up in Devon last weekend had cut marks to their fins and beaks, thought to have been caused when the bodies were removed from nets.

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