Greenpeace Croydon has this week helped to launch Operation Ocean Witness, which is making waves to confront destructive fishing methods and the use of supertrawlers.
At campaign stalls around Croydon, locals signed a petition calling on the government to ban supertrawlers, bottom trawlers and fly shooters from UK Marine Protected Areas.
Greenpeace volunteer Sarah Hester, from Selsdon, said, “We spoke to many local people who are on board with the need to ban destructive fishing from our protected areas.
“We were struck by just how many had heard of and disapproved of these massive industrial ships and the way they destroy all life in the sea within reach of their huge greedy nets.”
Visitors to the Greenpeace Croydon stalls were encouraged to leave messages in support of the campaign. One, from 10-year-old Rosie, summed up the position neatly: “Please protect the sea from these horrible monster ships. They catch and kill everything.”
The petition and messages, written on origami fishes, will be delivered directly to Parliament next month.
Operation Ocean Witness is the latest step in Greenpeace’s campaign to protect our oceans, which has included a David Attenborough-backed protest against destructive deep-sea mining, and Greenpeace ship the Sea Beaver stopping bottom trawlers from fishing in the Offshore Marine Protected Area off the coast of Sussex.
Supertrawlers stand accused of causing irreparable damage to the oceans, ploughing up the sea bed and destroying habitats while plundering fish stocks to desperately low levels. The world’s biggest fishing vessel – Poland’s Annelies Ilena – is 144 metres long, nearly five times the size of the world’s largest mammal, the blue whale.
When a fishing vessel’s target species are reduced to critical levels, this undermines the health of the entire ecosystem and its ability to function. Supertrawlers have been repeatedly linked to overfishing, catching species that are depleted or on the brink of collapse.
Supertrawlers also cause harm to other marine species that they don’t intend to catch – the “bycatch” of turtles, sharks, rays, whales and dolphins that get caught up in their vast nets, unable to escape.
For vessels that fish longer, further and with larger nets, as supertrawlers do, that risk of “collateral” damage is hugely increased.
Supertrawler operations in British protected areas have increased six-fold in the past four years.
Official figures show that supertrawlers spent a total of 142 hours fishing in what are supposed to be Marine Protected Areas off the south coast. The Offshore Overfalls, near Brighton, was the third most-visited MPA by supertrawlers of all the UK’s protected areas.
Last year, 84 MPs, including 29 Conservatives, wrote to George Eustice, the Secretary of State for the Environment, George Eustice, calling for a ban on destructive industrial fishing in British protected waters. Polling by YouGov found that 4 out of 5 adults in Britain want supertrawlers banned from protected areas.
In January, the Prime Minister hinted at a supertrawler ban, boasting on national television that, after Brexit, the UK “will be able to ban these huge hoover trawlers”. But Boris Johnson has since done nothing about it.
“It’s time to get ocean protection done,” Croydon Greenpeace’s Hester said today.
“As an island nation, we know how important our oceans are for local fisheries, tourism and tackling climate change. To truly be the world leader in marine protection that it claims to be, the government needs to ban supertrawlers from MPAs now.”
- The Greenpeace petition has so far attracted nearly half-a-million signatures. To add your name,and find out more, click here
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