Part of the UK Government’s ‘Benefits of Brexit’ document contains a small section entitled ‘Flourishing offshore Marine Protected Areas’. The report talks of ‘one of the biggest challenges for the UK previously was securing other countries’ endorsement for offshore Marine Protected Areas management measures through the Common Fisheries Policy process. Now that we are an independent coastal state, the Fisheries Act 2020 introduces new powers enabling us to better protect our Marine Protected Areas. We are undergoing a three-year programme of work to implement restorative measures in all our offshore sites. We have also committed to piloting a number of Highly Protected Marine Areas, which will have the highest levels of protection in our seas to allow nature to fully recover.’

In a separate study, researchers have noted that Brexit may bring some benefits to the environment as it has enabled the UK to reclaim the autonomy to designate offshore marine protected areas, something that was difficult from within the EU as it required agreement between all member states. For example, this has enabled a proposal to protect Dogger Bank – a large sand bank in a shallow area of the North Sea. The area, which was once incredibly productive for marine life, has been subject to intense fishing for centuries.

Wildlife and Countryside Link have pointed out that it is exactly a year ago that the Government committed to ban destructive fishing in four protected areas, including the Dogger Bank, with new byelaws restricting bottom trawling. Link’s Matthew Dawson explains why these measures are so vital and must be delivered, arguing that they are a test of the Government’s commitment to ensure that Brexit leads to stronger marine protections.

It is also a year since the MMO became aware of actions being undertaken by Greenpeace which appeared to require a marine licence, and for which no licence had been granted. Greenpeace dropped large boulders on to the seabed in the Dogger Bank marine protected area and went on to drop more in the Offshore Brighton MPA. The MMO have now decided to not continue with the prosecution of Greenpeace. A spokesperson said: “The MMO has decided not to continue with the prosecution. In doing so, we fully expect that Greenpeace will, in accordance with the comments made by the Learned Judge, support and comply with the marine licensing rules in future. “Should unlicensed activity occur in the future we will continue to investigate and will consider enforcement actions in line with our published compliance and enforcement strategy.”

In upcoming events, Chris Grayling, MP, is introducing a Ten Minute Rule Motion entitled ‘Marine Protected Areas (Bottom Trawling)’. One to watch out for.

No Comment

Comments are closed.