The Dogger Bank MPA and three other MPAs are a hammer blow to the UK fishing industry claims NFFO Chairperson Dale Rodmell
Greenpeace looks set to push the UK Government for more Marine Protected Areas as the Green Brexit begins to take momentum, but the Government’s plans will have a decisive impact on the fishing industry.
Dale Rodmell, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations spoke on the BBC’s Countryfile this morning on the issue of Marine Protected Areas, especially the Dogger Bank.
The broadcast was presented by Anna Hill of the BBC and Mr Rodmell was joined by Will McCallum, Head of Oceans at Greenpeace.
It has been announced that the Dogger Bank, along with three other MPAs are being closed to bottom trawling and other environmentally damaging fishing activities but the closure of these traditional fishing areas is of major concern to the industry in the North Sea.
“The proposals on the face of it are quite a hammer blow for the industry,” Mr Rodmell told the shows presenter.
“We’re certainly concerned about the proportionality of those measures, given the nature of the site, which is a shallow sandbank in the North Sea, which is probably one of the most resilient habitats that exists in the North Sea and therefore doesn’t, in our view, justify a full prohibition on all activities.”
Mr Rodmell pointed out that the site is a prime fishing ground for plaice and sandeel. He warned that displacing the fishing fleet from the bank will force fishing vessels onto grounds where fish is less abundant.
“If those activities are displaced then it is likely that they’ll be displaced onto less prime fishing grounds as well, and that can mean more effort has to take place in order to catch the quotas for those species, and that that also entails more environmental impact.”
Mr McCallum from Greenpeace was asked what Greenpeace meant when they said that the decision to establish an MPA at the Dogger Bank and other areas shouldn’t come at the expense of the fishing industry.
He replied, “I think first I’d like to just challenge the idea that the Dogger Bank is some kind of magical, resilient place, because you know when you look at the state of the UK’s oceans only three out of the top 10 fish stocks fished in UK waters are actually in a healthy state.
“We see climate change forcing fish to move. We see increasing pollution, you know. Our oceans are not doing particularly well, so the idea that this one patch is somehow resilient all of that I think needs to be challenged a bit.
“In fact, a few years ago, when the Government designated the Dogger Bank as an area with a special seabed habitat, no one back then was putting up their hand saying, “No, this this place is fine. This place doesn’t need protection”.
“It’s only now that the Government is taking that step further and trying to put in place measures that would genuinely protect what’s an incredibly important habitat. So those species that they’ll just mentioned, you know, sandeels feed kittiwakes and they feed puffins. They’re absolutely crucial because they lie at the bottom of the food chain and they’re an incredible food source for all the diversity of life in the North Sea.”
Asked if there were alternative fishing methods that could be used instead of bottom gear, Mr Rodmell said:
“Well, I think the idea that fishing is not already managed, and we need them in protected areas, takes from the fact that we do have management of our fish stocks through quotas and through technical measures. And we’ve actually been going through a period of recovery for fish stocks for 10 to 20 years, where we’ve seen fishing pressure come off, and we’ve seen actually a rebounding in stocks, so there’s no reason that it’s not going to continue into the future with good sound fisheries management.”
On the question of MPAs, Mr McCallum said that there was a need for more protected areas to be provided for:
“For many years, Greenpeace has campaigned for at least 30% of the world’s oceans to be put off limits to extractive industries like fishing. And you know this should be a win win for fishermen. This should be a situation where we end up with more fish because marine protected areas, they might not be a silver bullet solving everything, but they are a very good way to increase the number of fish in the ocean and unfortunately every time it comes down to picking specific sites, we find that there is opposition when the big picture is that marine protected areas were.”
Asked if this was the start of the Green Brexit promised by UK Government, Mr McCallum concluded by saying
“I sincerely hope that this is the first step, but they cannot and should not leave the fishing industry behind.”