Attempts to ban supertrawlers from UK marine protected areas post-Brexit has failed to win support in the House of Commons.
Last night the proposed amendement was defeated 331 votes to 197. The campaign to strengthen protections against overfishing was also rejected by the Government. This has led to a crushing defeat to environmental campaigners who wanted to use the UK Fisheries Bill to end what they call ‘destructive fishing’ in UK waters.
The battle will now move to the House of Lords, where peers are expected to restore some measures on sustainability and other previous amendments removed by the Government as the Bill worked its way through the House of Commons.
Victoria Prentis, a junior minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), told MPs during a four-hour debate that the bill had to “balance environmental, social and economic needs”.
But campaigners said MPs had ignored government promises that sustainability would be a legal commitment in the reorganisation of the UK’s fishing rights.
Earlier, at the start of September, the Government voted to remove the sustainability clause from the Fisheries Bill. At the time Victoria Prentis said “The Fisheries Bill already contains a robust framework of reporting and review requirements in the Bill that will, we feel, provide sufficient information against which inform a drive progress against the fisheries objective.”
In Mid-September, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, has promised that supertrawlers could be banned from UK water when the new UK Fisheries Bill is passed.
Melissa Moore, head of UK policy at the conservation group Oceana, said: “It’s a sad day for UK fisheries as the bill will enable overfishing to continue as there is no deadline or clear duty to fish sustainably. This is bad news for fishermen as more stocks will be at risk of collapse, bad news for coastal communities and bad news for the public who love fish suppers.”
She said the bill weakened protections that the UK had under the EU, which has a deadline to phase out overfishing this year. “The UK government’s rhetoric that it would develop ‘gold standard’ fisheries management is a joke,” she said.
Luke Pollard, the shadow environment secretary, said: “The Tories have again voted against creating new jobs in our fishing communities, and stopping supertrawlers destroying marine habitats. Britain’s fishers and our seas deserve better.”