Greenpeace, fishers, anglers, charter skippers and fishing businesses have come together to declare a state of emergency in the English Channel and Southern North Sea. Fishing groups from Eastbourne, Hastings, Thanet, Newhaven and Lowestoft, along with the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA), New Economics Foundation, Angling Trust, fishing businesses Sole of Discretion and Pesky Fish and Greenpeace, have signed a joint statement calling for the UK Government to take urgent measures to protect fishing communities and our oceans.
These measures include permanent bans for supertrawlers, bottom trawlers and fly-shooters in all marine protected areas more than 12 nautical miles from the coast in the English Channel, and a ban on pelagic trawlers over 55m and fly-shooters in the entire English Channel and Southern North Sea, on the grounds of the precautionary objective in the Fisheries Act.
Fishers along the south and east coasts have had their livelihoods devastated after years of unchecked industrial fishing by pulse trawlers, supertrawlers and fly-shooters. This has severely depleted fish populations, particularly in inshore waters, leaving some local fishers with nothing left to catch. Less than one third of key UK fish populations are in a healthy state.
Supertrawlers, all of which are EU owned, spend thousands of hours fishing in UK waters annually, including in marine protected areas. Supertrawler fishing times in UK marine protected areas increased by 1000% between 2017 and 2020. Industrial fly-shooters began focusing operations on UK waters off the south and east coast following the electric pulse trawling ban. Fly-shooting is a highly efficient industrial fishing method with immense catching capacity, which poses a threat to fish populations and the seabed.
his comes as it has been revealed by a Greenpeace investigation that one third of the membership of the UK’s largest industrial fishing lobbying group, the National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations (NFFO), is made up of European fishing companies. This group has lobbied against supertrawlers being banned from marine protected areas.
The joint statement calls on the UK government to act with an urgency that reflects the state of emergency facing fishers along the south and east coasts of England.