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Marine / Fishermen urge Greenpeace to tackle the ‘real issues’

Super trawlers are legally fishing in UK waters including MPAs. Photo: Greenpeace

A LOCAL fishermen’s leader has urged environmental pressure group Greenpeace to focus on the “real issues” and “stop playing on the ignorance” of its many thousands of followers.

On Thursday Greenpeace raised again the issue of super trawlers spending an increased amount of time fishing in marine protected areas (MPAs) including some in the north of Scotland.

They said banning those trawlers, some of them more than 100 metres in length, would be a good starting point to better protect those designated areas.

But executive officer for Shetland Fishermen’s Association, Simon Collins, said the environmentalist’s public statements were misleading since MPAs are “not no-fishing areas” and the super trawlers had the quota to fish in these areas legally.

The real issue, he said, is how the companies behind the trawlers had been able to obtain the necessary quota through the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP); an issue that can only be resolved once the UK is an independent coastal state following Brexit.

He added that these vessels were fishing mainly with English quota and described it as a lesser issue in Scotland.

“It would be good if NGOs [non-governmental organisations] would spend less time on imaginary stories and more on real issues such as the amount of gill nets dumped at sea,” he added.

There are more than 30 MPAs in Scottish waters each protection certain habitats, wildlife and geology.

Greenpeace said super trawlers had spent 5,590 hours fishing in 19 protected areas during the first six months of this year, double the amount of fishing time in MPDAs during the whole of last year.

Chris Thorne, an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “Our government cannot continue to allow super trawlers to fish with ever increasing intensity in parts of our waters that are supposed to be protected.

“It must step in and put a stop to industrial super trawler operations within our offshore marine protected areas, something which will be possible after Britain leaves the Common Fisheries Policy.

“Industrial fishing operations have no place in our protected areas. At least 30 per cent of the UK’s waters should be off limits to all industrial fishing activity in a network of fully or highly protected marine areas.

“A good start towards achieving this would be to ban super trawlers from fishing in our protected areas for thousands of hours every year.”