UK fishing licences for bottom-trawling could be unlawful, says Oceana | Fishing

The British authorities’s granting of fishing licences to greater than 1,000 UK and EU vessels for 2022, which can allow bottom-trawling and dredging in marine protected areas, could be illegal until circumstances to safeguard ocean habitats are imposed, the conservation group Oceana says.

In a letter to George Eustice, secretary of state for the atmosphere, components of which have been seen by the Guardian, the group warned that licences anticipated to be granted this month could contravene UK regulation. This contains the habitats directive, aimed toward defending very important marine ecosystems.

Backside-trawling and dredging, that are extremely damaging to the seabed, are nonetheless permitted in 97% of marine protected areas (MPAs). Practically 1 / 4 of the UK’s territorial waters are protected areas, set as much as safeguard very important habitats and species together with harbour porpoises and dolphins. The MPAs are essentially the most outstanding function of the federal government’s pledge to guard 30% of ocean biodiversity by 2030.

Melissa Moore, head of UK coverage at Oceana in Europe, mentioned she anticipated the licences to be issued this month. “These licences could be large supertrawlers or scallop vessels. Whether or not it’s scooping up dolphins or dredging the seabed, this laws is precautionary.


“The habitat directive is saying earlier than you license you should show that the licence received’t have an effect on the location,” she mentioned. “The federal government has not accomplished that.”

French trawler off Granville, Normandy.
UK authorities has solely banned bottom-trawling in two marine protected areas, with plans to incorporate 4 extra, together with Dogger Financial institution. {Photograph}: Nicolas Garriga/AP

Oceana’s evaluation discovered that of the 68,000 hours of fishing with damaging bottom-towed gear that happened alongside the seabed of protected areas off the UK shore final 12 months, 39% was by British vessels, particularly off Scotland, 35% by French and the remaining by different EU states.

Underneath so-called benthic MPAs – to guard species that dwell on the seabed – the federal government has to date banned bottom-trawling and dredging in solely two of its offshore MPAs and plans to herald a ban for 4 extra, together with within the Dogger Financial institution. On the present price of progress, Oceana estimates it could take the UK till 2050 to correctly defend all such weak marine areas.

Moore mentioned: “We’d like a direct ban on trawling and dredging in all offshore marine protected areas in addition to the inshore zone. To proceed to license this damaging exercise, once we know the harm it causes, and that it’s unlawful below varied environmental legal guidelines, beggars perception. A easy licence situation ought to prohibit fishing in MPAs.”

Defending marine habitats would assist defend us from the local weather disaster by sequestering and storing carbon, she mentioned.

In its letter, Oceana mentioned the federal government had did not conduct an acceptable evaluation of any important impact of the upcoming licences on particular areas of conservation as required below regulation 28 of the offshore habitats regulations. Oceana additionally warned that the federal government could be failing to adjust to marine technique rules requiring it to keep up “good ecological” status by December 2020 and could breach its obligation to preserve the marine atmosphere below the Fisheries Act, if the licences have been granted with out the mandatory circumstances.

A small boat in the Channel passes the white cliffs of the south coast
A Greenpeace boat monitoring fishing within the Channel. The group described bottom-trawling in marine protected areas as ‘bulldozing nationwide parks’. {Photograph}: Fionn Guilfoyle/Greenpeace/PA

A current examine estimated that fishing boats trawling alongside the seabed launch as a lot carbon because the aviation business places into the environment yearly, and that carbon emissions in UK waters have been the fourth largest globally from trawling.

In April, the federal government dedicated to adopting fisheries administration for all its MPAs by 2024, after authorized points have been raised by Oceana.

Greenpeace described bottom-trawling in marine protected areas as “bulldozing nationwide parks”. Greenpeace UK’s head of oceans, Will McCallum, mentioned: “It turns the seafloor right into a catastrophe zone whereas additionally releasing planet-heating carbon within the course of. It ought to be banned.

“Up to now, this damaging fishing technique has been restricted in simply two MPAs out of 64 – it’s a joke. If the federal government means a single phrase it mentioned about being a worldwide oceans champion, then the very least they’ll do is ban bottom-trawling and dredging from a few of our most valuable marine environments.”

A spokesperson for the Division for Setting, Meals and Rural Affairs mentioned: “To guard our very important fish shares, all EU vessels granted entry to fish in UK waters should adjust to UK guidelines and rules, together with these on sustainability.

“We’ve got already stopped pulse-trawling by EU and English-registered vessels in UK waters, and are working carefully with business to handle their considerations surrounding bottom-trawling. Now we’ve got left the EU, the MMO [Marine Management Organisation] has additionally consulted on further safeguards for a number of of our offshore marine protected areas.”


The Scottish authorities mentioned it could exclude all fishing from 10% of its seas by 2026. A spokesperson mentioned: “As set out within the programme for government, we are going to ship fisheries administration measures for current marine protected areas the place these aren’t already in place, in addition to key coastal biodiversity areas outdoors these websites, by March 2024 on the newest.

“We may even designate extremely protected marine areas, which can exclude all fishing actions, overlaying a minimum of 10% of our seas by 2026.”

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