The green group has called on the government to reject the 'flawed status quo' and ban the controversial vessels from Marine Protected Areas after its findings reveal that foreign-owned ships racked up more than 123 days fishing in ecologically-sensitive sites.
Greenpeace has called for a ban on supertrawlers after the publication of a report that reveals the controversial ships racked up nearly 3,000 hours last year legally fishing in ecologically-sensitive marine environments in UK waters.
Supertrawlers, which can be more than 100 metres long, use nets that are up to one mile long to vacuum up hundreds of tonnes of fish each day.
A Greenpeace investigation into the vessels published today notes that 25 supertrawlers, none of which are UK-owned, logged the equivalent of 123 consecutive days fishing in 39 different Marine Protected Areas around the country.
Greenpeace said the presence of "destructive" supertrawlers in the ecologically sensitive marine environments "makes a mockery of the word 'protected'".
Four of the world's biggest supertrawlers have been in operation in UK MPAs, according to the report.
Chris Thorne, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, called on the government to ban the vessels from MPAs. "Even an hour of supertrawler activity inside an ecologically sensitive marine environment is too much, let alone almost 3,000," he said. "For our government to be taken seriously as a leader in marine protection, it must ban supertrawler operations in the UK's Marine Protected Areas."
The report underscores the damage the huge vessels and nets wreak on marine ecosystems and species, pointing to the fact that more than 1,100 porpoises died in fishing nets in 2019 in the Southern North Sea alone, an east coast MPA created specifically to protect the species.
Other places that saw the most supertrawler activity last year were found off the Shetlands, off the Hebrides, and in Offshore Overfalls, a marine area off the south coast, according to Greenpeace.
Thorne called on the government to use the opportunity provided by Brexit to improve marine protections in the UK. "Will our government heed the recommendations of the Highly Protected Marine Area review and seize the historic opportunity Brexit provides to fix the UK's broken network of Marine Protected Areas, or will it allow the flawed status quo to continue?" he asked.
Greenpeace said that banning supertrawlers from the UK's network of 355 MPAs would be a "first step" towards establishing the network of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) proposed earlier this week by a government-commissioned independent review of UK marine protection, which similarly argued marine protection should be strengthened.
Commenting on Greenpeace's demands, a spokesperson from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told BusinessGreen the government would be able to introduce stronger marine protections when it was no longer bound by EU law. "The Common Fisheries Policy currently restricts our ability to implement tougher protection, but leaving the EU and taking back control of our waters as an independent coastal state means we can introduce stronger measures," the said.
The spokesperson added that the "UK is a global leader in the fight to protect our seas, with our Blue Belt of protected waters nearly twice the size of England".
The independent Benyon Review, published on Monday, argued that the introduction of HPMA areas - zones where fishing, dredging and construction are fully banned - could lead to a significant biodiversity boost and deliver a range of recreational and tourism opportunities for the UK.
Greenpeace said today the government should adopt and expand the recommendations in the review in order to meet its target of ensuring that 30 per cent of the UK's waters are fully protected by the end of the decade.
Greenpeace also launched a petition calling on the government to ban supertrawlers from MPAs on its website today in a bid to highlight public opposition to the practice.
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