Eight in ten adults in the UK (81%) feel that bottom-trawl fishing should be banned in marine protected areas (MPAs), according to new polling commissioned by the charity Oceana UK.

Those in favour of banning bottom trawling in MPAs was shown in a sample of 2,111 UK adults, for polling commissioned by the charity, 566 of whom lived in coastal constituencies. Bottom trawling is permitted in almost all of the UK’s MPAs, according to the charities analysis.

Although the strength of feeling about the issue was high, awareness was initially low. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of those asked thought that bottom trawling was already banned in MPAs, a figure that was very similar in the subset of coastal constituencies (66%).



Bottom trawling viewpoints

Bottom trawling is an effective method for capturing fish. However, due to its potentially indiscriminate nature, the practice is highly controversial.

“Bottom towed fishing gear is extremely detrimental to marine species and habitats and has significant negative impacts on marine biodiversity,” Amy Cartwright, project manager at University of Plymouth’s School of Biological and Marine Sciences, told Mongabay in an email. “It disturbs the seabed, damages sensitive habitats, and can result in bycatch of non-target species.”

Mike Cohen, CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), pointed out that the seabed is “naturally mobile and variable” and that trawling wouldn’t cause too much damage since the bottom can shift due to winds and currents.

“[Bottom trawling] has an impact, just like farming or driving a car,” Cohen told Mongabay in an interview, “but crucially, I don’t think it affects it beyond a manageable level, and we have to manage what we do in order to keep sustaining what we do.”

Angry and Disappointed

According to the polling from Oceana UK, Coastal people reported feeling ‘Angry’ (23%) and ‘Disappointed’ (42%) about the fact that bottom trawling is permitted, closely reflecting the result across the whole sample (23% and 41%, respectively).

“The strength of feeling across the UK public is clear: Destructive bottom trawling has no place in our marine ‘protected’ areas. Whether we live by the coast or in a city, we are united against the bulldozing of our marine havens. As a nation, we must honour our commitment to protect and restore 30% of our seas by 2030”, said Hugo Tagholm, Executive Director of Oceana UK, following release of the polling.

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