Chris Grayling, MP, is introducing a Ten Minute Rule Motion entitled ‘Marine Protected Areas (Bottom Trawling)’. We covered previously that a study 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. For example, this has enabled a proposal to protect Dogger Bank. Wildlife and Countryside Link have pointed out why these measures are vital, arguing that they are a test of the Government’s commitment to ensure that Brexit leads to stronger marine protections. 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 recently decided not continue with a prosecution of Greenpeace.

A new piece in The Conversation by Jan Geert Hiddink of Bangor University, asks the question ‘Is sustainable seabed trawling possible?’ He looks at the evidence and states that ‘bottom-trawl fishing provides about a quarter of global seafood but is controversial. The heavy nets and dredges that are used to catch species like cod, plaice and scampi also disturb the seabed and kill some of the invertebrates that live there.’ Separately, an item on ‘Britain’s seagrass-loving pipefish’ talks of their life in a ‘habitat threatened and degraded by trawling’.

Professor Hiddink goes on to say ‘EU proposals to curb bottom trawling have triggered a row between conservationists and industry groups. Environmental NGOs have been calling for a ban because they consider it incompatible with sustainable management of the seas, while fishing industry groups have been arguing that the practice is compatible with good environmental stewardship.’

In the UK, back in early 2021, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) released a report which said that damaging fishing, like bottom trawling, is taking place in 98% of the UK’s offshore Marine Protected Areas. The report prompted a response from Defra. New analysis by MCS has stated that there has been an increase in activity at England’s Dogger Bank and The Times [behind paywall] has reported that ‘Bottom trawling in marine protected area rises fivefold’.

Finally, in Europe, the NGO Oceana has reported that thirty years after the establishment of the Natura 2000 network, bottom trawling still occurs in the majority of MPAs. A journal paper by staff at the organisation covers the issue in detail and can be found here.

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