Guardian – Greenpeace ‘More than 97% of British marine protected areas, created to safeguard ocean habitats, are being dredged and bottom trawled, according to data shared with the Guardian.

Nearly a quarter of the UK’s territorial waters are covered by MPAs, set up to protect vital ecosystems and species, including harbour porpoises and dolphins. This network of parks is a symbol of the government’s “world leading” target to protect 30% of ocean biodiversity by 2030.

However, analysis of fishing vessel tracking data from Global Fishing Watch (GFW), by Oceana, a conservation NGO, found that bottom trawling and dredging, the most destructive type of fishing on sea-floor habitats, is happening in 71 out of 73 offshore MPAs around the UK.

The vessels, from the UK, other EU countries and Russia, spent an estimated 200,000 hours trawling or dredging across the seabed in offshore MPAs in 2019, according to GFW algorithms based on their AIS (automatic identification systems) data, Oceana said.

The findings, which follow reports by Greenpeace of an increasing number of foreign supertrawlers fishing in the same sites, drew accusations that the government is misleading the public over “paper parks” that fail to protect Britain’s seas.

The government has insisted that the EU’s common fisheries policy restricts its ability to implement tougher protections in MPAs. Trawling and dredging is not illegal in most offshore MPAs.

Oceana warned of an “ecological emergency”, calling on the government to introduce measures to protect the sites from 1 January, the end of the Brexit transition period, when it gains more control of its territorial waters.’

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