Calling for a ban on fishing in UK sea-protected waters amid fear of carbon emissions
More than two-thirds of people support banning damaging fishing methods in protected areas of the sea, it emerged.
The results come as environmentalists warn that fishing like bottom trawling – in which a weighted net is pulled along the seabed to catch fish – risks releasing millions of tonnes of carbon stored in the seabed in the protected areas.
Data from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) estimates that UK marine protected areas in continental shelf waters store around 26.5 million tonnes of carbon.
Industrial fishing methods such as bottom trawling risk releasing this “blue carbon” by disrupting the seabed where it would otherwise be stored, adding to the climate crisis rather than helping to combat it, environmentalists say.
Bottom trawlers operate in 98% of the UK’s marine protected areas, designated to protect marine wildlife and habitats that can be damaged by the fishing process, MCS said.
Greenpeace’s survey of 1,883 people found that 71% of those polled did not think bottom trawling should be allowed in protected areas of the sea, and 69% supported a ban there.
Only three percent have opposed a ban, and only 12 percent of those polled believe the government is doing enough to protect UK seas from industrial fishing.
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Chris Thorne, an ocean activist at Greenpeace UK, said bottom trawlers were tearing up areas of the seabed that were supposed to be protected.
He said: “It is like a bulldozer plowing a nature reserve, but this destruction of our marine environment is so often out of sight and out of mind for the public and, unfortunately, for politicians.
“It damages the marine environment and disrupts vital blue carbon stores.”
The government has announced plans to ban bottom trawling in any or all of the four marine protected areas, which environmental groups say will help wildlife there, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg of what is necessary.