Greenpeace UK said Friday it had dropped 18 large boulders onto the seabed in a marine protected zone off the coast of south-west England to prevent “destructive” industrial fishing.
The environmentalists sailed to the western part of the Channel between the UK and France, laden with the Portland limestone boulders, each weighing between 500 and 1,400 kilograms (1,100 and 3,100 pounds).
The giant rocks were dropped on Thursday from the Arctic Sunrise research vessel in an area of the South West Deeps (East) Conservation Zone, which is about 190 kilometers (120 miles) from Land’s End, the westernmost point of mainland England.
“We are placing large limestone boulders on the seabed to create a protective underwater barrier that will keep the area out of the bounds of destructive fishing,” Anna Diski, Britain’s oceans campaigner on board, told AFP.
The move would make it “impossible for them to drag the heavy fishing gear across the seabed, destroying the habitat and disrupting the carbon,” she added.
Artists created a giant ammonite sculpture — inspired by the fossil often found in Portland limestone — from one of the boulders, which was also placed on the seafloor.
The names of the celebrity supporters and supportive politicians were also engraved on the rocks.
“At the moment there is an industrial fishing frenzy in British waters, and what is our government doing about it?” asked Greenpeace UK’s head of oceans, Will McCallum.
“Greenpeace UK created this underwater rock block as a last resort to protect the oceans. We would rather the government just did its job.”
McCallum said it was “outrageous” that bottom trawlers are allowed to operate in protected areas on the seabed.
“They are destroying huge swaths of the marine ecosystem and making fun of our so-called ‘protection,'” he added.
The move comes after the latest round of UN talks to try to ensure the protection of marine life in international waters broke down without an agreement.
Greenpeace said the 4,600 square kilometers (1,776 square miles) South West Deeps is “one of the most heavily fished so-called Marine Protected Areas in the UK”.
It quoted figures from the Global Fishing Watch monitoring agency that said 110 vessels – more than half of them from France – spent 18,928 hours fishing in the area in the 18 months to July.
Of these, industrial vessels with bottom towed gear spent 3,376 hours fishing in the zone.
Bottom trawling has been banned in just four of the UK’s 76 offshore marine protected areas, with the government discussing possible bans in a further 13.
“The problem is that the majority of British MPAs have no real protection at all,” said Jasmine Watkiss, one of those aboard the Arctic Sunrise.
“The government needs to get serious about protecting the ocean before it’s too late.
“The next Prime Minister should ban industrial fishing in all UK Marine Protected Areas by adjusting commercial fishing licences,” she added.
Neil Whitney, a fisherman from East Sussex in southern England, said bottom trawling was “like plowing a combine harvester through a national park”.
“They can take out entire ecosystems, and if they cause one fishery to collapse, they just move on to the next,” he added.
“Industrial fishing, such as fly-shooters (vessels that drag lead ropes along the seabed) and super trawlers (trawlers over 100 meters in length), are destroying our marine environment, and small-scale British fishermen like me are losing a lot of time.”
He said it was “absurd” that bottom trawling was legal in MPAs. “MPAs should be the areas where fish stocks can recover so we can fish for generations.
“It’s a matter of common sense.”
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© 2022 AFP
Quote: Greenpeace drops boulders onto UK seabed to curb bottom trawl fishing (2022, September 2), retrieved 2 September 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-greenpeace-boulders-uk -seabed-curb.html
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