Greenpeace activists stopped a French fly-shooter from fishing on an MPA off the Sussex coast last week.
Onboard the Greenpeace vessel was local Green Party MP Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion), who takes a keen interest in protecting MPAs.
Caroline Lucas and Greenpeace activists from Operation Ocean Witness caught Larche, a French-flagged fly-shooter, fishing on the Bassurelle Sandbank MPA. They displayed a banner reading ‘This is a Marine Protected Area’ before asking the vessel to stop fishing and leave the area.
The fly-shooter immediately hauled its gear and left the protected area.
Caroline Lucas said: “This area off Brighton is supposed to be a Marine Protected Area. Yet it’s clear that the government is turning a blind eye to hugely destructive industrial fishing which continues to take place there.
“When I’ve raised it with ministers, they’ve failed to show any urgency in banning it. But if the government can’t ensure the protection of areas like this, it makes pledges to safeguard 30% of land and sea for nature completely meaningless.
“Protected status has to be backed up with measures to keep land and marine areas safe for biodiversity and the recovery of nature.”
Greenpeace launched Operation Ocean Witness in June. A six-month operation involving a new Greenpeace ship called Sea Beaver, it will patrol the UK MPAs off the south coast to protect them from what Greenpeace describes as ‘destructive fishing’. The vessel will operate out of Newhaven until the autumn.
Greenpeace said Operation Ocean Witness has spent the past three months patrolling the MPAs off the Sussex coast, ‘documenting, exposing and confronting the destructive fishing practices taking place at sea’.
This included ‘numerous instances’ of vessels fishing with their automatic identification systems (AIS) switched off – so-called ‘dark bottom trawling’, which is illegal.
Greenpeace said it had stopped two bottom trawlers and now one fly-shooter from harming Sussex’s protected areas.
Fiona Nicholls, an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “It’s heartening when members of parliament like Caroline Lucas put their time into joining us at sea to bear witness to the destructive industrial fishing that is ripping up supposedly protected patches of seabed with alarming regularity.
“There’s no point saying an area of seabed is protected, while still allowing bottom trawlers to plough that seabed for thousands of hours each year.
“MPs from across the political spectrum are concerned about this issue – 85 joined us in signing an open letter to the environment secretary last year, calling for such fishing practices to be banned from all of the UK’s MPAs.”
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here. (Above image credit: Greenpeace)