Brexit fishing outrage as ‘state of emergency’ declared in Channel over EU supertrawlers

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Fishing groups from Eastbourne, Hastings, Thanet, Newhaven and Lowestoft, alongside the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA), New Economics Foundation, Angling Trust, fishing businesses Sole of Discretion and Pesky Fish and Greenpeace have all signed a joint statement. They are calling on Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party Government to “take urgent measures to protect fishing communities and our oceans”. In the English Channel, the plans propose supertrawlers over 100 metres, bottom trawlers and fly shooters should be banned immediately for the 10 offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that have been designated – more than 12 nautical miles from the coast.

Greenpeace said: “This will help marine ecosystems to recover from intense fishing pressure and impacts on the seabed, revitalise fish populations and help local fishermen by boosting catches and reviving coastal communities.

“And it would be a vital step towards the scientifically supported target of fully protecting at least 30 percent of our oceans by 2030.”

The groups are calling for an immediate ban on pelagic trawlers over 55 metres, as well as fly shooters, “on the grounds of the precautionary objective in the Fisheries Act, and based on the immense threat these fishing methods pose to the livelihoods of fishermen along the south coast”.

Greenpeace said this would also “protect local fishermen from any displacement of industrial vessels banned from English Channel offshore MPAs”.

The groups want a “full and thorough assessment of the environmental and local economic impacts of both fishing methods in the waters of the English Channel before any decisions about granting fishing licences are made”.

In the Southern North Sea, similar to the English Channel, there is a call for pelagic trawlers over 55 metres and fly shooters to be banned immediately from the entire stretch of water.

This is once again on the same grounds as that proposed for the bans in the Channel and would also “protect local fishermen from any displacement of industrial vessels banned from the English Channel offshore MPAs”.

Again, they want a detailed assessment of the environmental and local economic impacts of both fishing methods to be conducted before any decisions are made about granting fishing licences.

Greenpeace said in a press release: “Fishers along the south and east coasts have had their livelihoods devastated after years of unchecked industrial fishing by pulse trawlers, supertrawlers and fly-shooters.

“This has severely depleted fish populations, particularly in inshore waters, leaving some local fishers with nothing left to catch. Less than one-third of key UK fish populations are in a healthy state.

“Supertrawlers, all of which are EU owned, spend thousands of hours fishing in UK waters annually, including in marine protected areas.

“Supertrawler fishing times in UK marine protected areas increased by 1,000 percent between 2017 and 2020.

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“Industrial fly-shooters began focusing operations on UK waters off the south and east coast following the electric pulse trawling ban.

“Fly-shooting is a highly efficient industrial fishing method with immense catching capacity, which poses a threat to fish populations and the seabed [6].

Jerry Percy, director of the New Under 10s Fishermen’s Association, said: “It’s really quite simple.

“The small scale coastal fleet that the Government has sworn to protect is now forced to watch their present and future livelihoods being destroyed in front of their eyes.

“Firstly by the huge fleet of powerful EU owned fly-shooters that inexplicably have had all catch limits removed for their target species, and secondly, by massive EU midwater trawlers reducing the resilience of stocks in the Channel to the impact of climate change whilst threatening dolphin and porpoise populations.

“Tragically, it appears to be only Greenpeace that has been willing to lend its political and practical weight in defence of our coastal fishermen and communities.”

Chris Thorne, an Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “We’ve been at sea all summer bearing witness to the destruction taking place in the English Channel and nearby waters.

“We’ve worked closely with local fishers, and when you’re on the water with them, it’s very clear; our fishing communities are at breaking point.

“They won’t survive much longer without urgent action from the government.

“Fishing communities, anglers, charter skippers and environmental groups alike support these measures which will be an important step towards fully protecting at least 30% of our oceans by 2030.

“We hope that by coming together to fight for the same thing, our government will finally start taking practical steps towards delivering this goal.

“If these requests are ignored, it’s clear that ministers are siding with the multinational fishing companies who are wrecking our oceans, instead of the local fishers who are the backbone of our coastal communities.”

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