UK Marine Protected Areas will continue to be trashed by fishing vessels post-Brexit according to the Blue Marine Foundation
UK Marine Protected Areas have been encroached upon this year according to a report following an investigation from the Blue Marine Foundation.
The investigation claims the Haisborough and North Norfolk marine protected areas were infringed upon a couple of UK and (Dutch-owned) German-flagged vessels which have used electric-pulse trawling techniques – despite the presence of pulse vessels being the subject of a legal complaint to the European Commission and the British government.
The government has admitted that destructive and unlawful fishing practices, such as electric-pulse fishing and beam trawling and the presence of supertrawlers will continue in the UK’s vast offshore marine protected areas after the UK’s Brexit transition period on Jan 1 next year.
Electric-pulse fishing remains a sensitive issue and in the UK, the Government has promised to ban the method, which involves dragging electrodes over the seabed to shock fish that live in the sediment and force them into the trawl net.
The European Union has banned this method of fishing and the full ban is due to come into effect next summer but bizarrely, the EU Presidency under the Germans, has decided to reopen the debate based on scientific evidence from an International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) report commissioned by the Netherlands.
The Blue Marine Foundation has called for the banning of electric-pulse fishing in UK waters post 01 January 2021 (the end of the transition period) but with the consultation on rules that will govern areas such as pulse fishing and beam trawling not set to start until next year, the organisation is concerned the destructive practices would continue after Brexit.
Fisheries minister Victoria Prentis told the Commons committee on the Fisheries Bill that the UK government proposed to begin consulting on rules that would affect offshore marine protected areas after the end of the transition period.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said: “There is no excuse for foreign fishing boats being in British waters using cruel fishing methods like electro-pulse beam trawling. Labour wants this method of fishing banned.
“Electrocuting fish is cruel and kills younger fish that might otherwise swim free of nets designed to protect young fish. Beam trawlers and other bottom towed gears cause significant problems for our marine life.
“There’s a lot of soundbites on fishing from ministers but often precious little action using the powers they already have. Enforcing a ban on electro-pulse fishing has to be a priority not just after January 1, but right now.”
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: “We are putting sustainable fishing and protection of our seas and sea life at the heart of our future fishing strategy.
“This is why we have already put in place a ‘blue belt’ of protected waters nearly twice the size of England. The Fisheries Bill proposes a new power to allow the introduction of measures for conservation purposes, which will enable us to better manage our Marine Protected Areas.”