Greenpeace activists have stopped a supertrawler from fishing in a UK protected area. The 117m long supertrawler, Helen Mary, was caught by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza fishing in the Central Fladen protected area, east of Scotland.
The Helen Mary was detained at sea by Marine Scotland on suspected fishery offences in 2019. This investigation is ongoing. It is also suspected of fisheries offences in West Africa. It has been fishing inside and around the Central Fladen protected area since early 11.10.2020.
The activists first informed the supertrawler’s skipper that his vessel was fishing in a protected area. The activists then requested that the supertrawler stop fishing in the protected area. When this request was refused, climbers boarded the vessel from the Esperanza and dropped a banner reading “Ban supertrawlers now”. Greenpeace activists then approached with fishing deterrents to place in the supertrawler’s nets, at which point Helen Mary was forced to leave the protected area [tracking data available on request].
This comes after the Government voted down an amendment to the Fisheries Bill which would have committed them to banning supertrawlers from protected areas after Britain leaves the Common Fisheries Policy at the start of 2021.
Chris Thorne, a Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner on board Esperanza, said:
“Supertrawlers have no place in our protected areas. What use is a protected area, when the highest intensity industrial fishing vessels are allowed to operate inside it? Regardless of whether a protected area protects the seabed, or marine life like porpoises which are directly threatened by supertrawlers, the operations of a supertrawler in a supposedly protected area make a mockery of the word protected.
“Every year since 2016, supertrawlers have doubled the time they’ve spent fishing in our protected areas. Our Government refuses to act, so we’ve been forced to step in. We have stopped this destructive industrial vessel from fishing in one of our protected areas for as long as we can. We can’t stop it permanently, that’s up to our Government. They could announce a ban on destructive industrial vessels fishing in our protected areas tomorrow. They must act.”
Greenpeace investigations have revealed that supertrawlers doubled their time spent fishing in UK protected areas every year since 2017. So far in 2020, Supertrawlers have already spent more than 5590 hours fishing in UK protected areas, equivalent to 232 entire days fishing time. Supertrawlers like the Helen Mary are the highest intensity fishing vessels, capable of catching hundreds of tonnes of fish each day using nets up to a mile long.
4 in 5 members of the UK public from across the political spectrum want supertrawlers banned from fishing in protected areas. Over 80 MPs from all political parties have written to the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, calling on him to ban supertrawlers from protected areas.
The Central Fladen protected area protects the seabed. There is no long term condition monitoring in this protected area to determine its progress towards conservation targets. Although the seabed may escape damage by the supertrawler, which targets midwater species, the intensity with which it fishes, catching hundreds of tonnes of fish each day will impact the entire marine ecosystem.
Fully protected marine areas free from destructive fishing have been proven to significantly boost fish stocks both inside and outside the protected area.
Labour will table another amendment to the Fisheries Bill this afternoon which would commit the Government to banning supertrawlers from fishing in UK protected areas after Britain leaves the Common Fisheries Policy.
Greenpeace is calling for all offshore marine protected areas to be put off limits to industrial fishing, beginning with the highest impact vessels like supertrawlers and bottom trawlers. This would make good on the Government’s promise to properly protect Britain’s seas after our departure from the Common Fisheries Policy.