Harmful bottom trawling is occurring in 98 per cent of protected areas located in UK waters, a charity has today warned.
The contentious fishing practice sees heavy nets dragged across seabeds to collect fish and shellfish and is highly destructive to the marine environment.
It churns up the landscape and ruins habitats while simultaneously releasing carbon into the water.
As a result, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is calling for the UK Government to use Brexit as an opportunity to put a stop to the controversial practice.
The charity equates it to driving a bulldozer across national parks on land.
The report found all but one of the offshore marine-protected areas (MPAs) was dredged between 2015 and 2018.
During this three-year window, sandbanks and reefs – which are supposed to be protected – were subjected to least 89,894 hours of fishing.
UK-based boats were responsible for 43 per cent of fishing while the EU accounted for 57 per cent, the report adds.
The UK has a network of 358 marine-protected areas, including 70 offshore sites which are intended to protect the seabed, the report said.
However, the ruinous form of fishing is prohibited in only one of the protected areas, which sit in the offshore zone defined as being between 12 and 200 nautical miles from the UK coast.
This area is called the Darwin Mounds to the north of Scotland and received legal protection in 2003, following a Greenpeace campaign to save the deep-water corals found there.
Other protected areas have been left without much in the way of motivating factors to ensure they avoid trawling but some, including the community-led South Arran Marine Protected Area, have flourished.
It applied for MPA status in 2012 and since then has seen its wasteland seabed transformed into a haven for wildlife and marine plants.
Greenpeace drops boulders in the North Sea to stop trawlers in the Dogger Bank conservation area Activists working for Greenpeace have started dropping boulders in parts of the North Sea to prevent industrial bottom trawlers fishing in protected areas. Greenpeace said the boulders were being spaced at precise intervals inside the Dogger Bank protected marine area and wouldn’t harm the seabed. The shallow sandbank habitat is home to crabs, starfish, flatfish and sandeels which are food for seabirds such as puffins, as well as for porpoises and dolphins. Bottom trawling is a type of fishing that involves dragging heavy weighted nets across the sea floor to catch fish – but Greenpeace warn it is ‘destroys the seabed’. Any bottom trawlers trying to fish over the boulders will get their gear snagged and ruined on the rocks, though passing marine traffic will not be affected. The conservation charity said it would continue to drop boulders until the Government introduces stricter restrictions on fishing in these areas. A boulder falls into the North Sea from the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza Read from source….