Destructive fly-shooting in the English Channel raises concerns | Peach
The UK has been accused of allowing a fleet of predominantly European fishing vessels ‘fly-hauling’ ‘unimpeded access’ to the English Channel, without a proper assessment of the impact on fish populations, the seabed or the livelihoods of artisanal fishermen.
Organizations representing artisanal fishermen on both sides of the Channel have warned that the fleet is having a “devastating” effect on their catches. They are calling for a review of UK vessel licenses until an impact assessment has been completed.
Fly fishing boats, sometimes referred to as Danish or Scottish purse seiners, tow weighted lead ropes along the seabed at each end of a net that encircles and catches entire schools of fish.
Victoria Prentis, the Minister of the Environment, said in response to a parliamentary question this month that fly shooters have a lower environmental impact than other types of gear because they can be used from vessels of less power and consuming less fuel.
Caroline Lucas, MP for the Greens, called this assessment “not good enough”.
An expert told the Guardian that fly shooters have an estimated “destructive power” of four to eleven times that of inshore fishing boats.
Currently, at least 75 vessels use this method of fishing in the English Channel, compared to a handful of years previously.
Jeremy Percy, director of Low Impact Fishers of Europe (Life), accused the government of allowing “unhindered access” to fly shooters to the detriment of the fishing fleet under 10 meters, which he said had “hung on by the nails for years.”
“Our fishermen tell us that there is no point in going out to sea when these boats have passed because there is nothing left,” said Percy.
In a letter to the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Percy said the method is having a devastating effect and not least on over-quota stocks.
These stocks, of species such as sea bass and mullet, were “vital” for fishermen under 10 meters and non-sectoral fishermen (those outside the large cooperative “producer organizations”), who have increasingly become. more dependent on them, “due to restrictive government policies,” he said.
Years of restrictions, unfair quota allocations and the news since Brexit that foreign vessels with a history would be allowed in the 6 to 12 mile coastal zone, despite promises that British ships would have exclusive access up to 12 miles, left inshore fishermen in crisis, they say.
EU vessels using pulse-electric fishing, another controversial fishing method, have been banned from UK waters this year after years of lobbying from coastal fishermen. Fishermen under 10 meters say the battle with fly shooters is a story repeating itself.
Fifteen of the 75 vessels are registered and licensed in the UK; the others are French, Belgian and Dutch. EU vessels fishing in UK waters must be approved by the UK Marine Management Organization (MMO), but they are not gear type specific.
Lucas said: “Defra has clearly let go of this damaging form of fishing, issuing licenses without a proper assessment of the damage fly shooting causes to stocks and the seabed. It is simply not enough for the minister to say that it is acceptable because it has a lower environmental impact, because it is carried out by smaller vessels.
“The government is committed to protecting 30% of the land and seas for nature by 2030 and it must take urgent action on this, otherwise there will be no more marine life to protect,” a- she told the Guardian.
Brian O’Riordan, Deputy Director of Life, which represents 10,000 fishermen from the Baltic to the Mediterranean Sea, said: “They should not be given carte blanche to fish in an area where the artisanal sector struggles to make a living. , with a question mark about sustainability.
Michel Kaiser, professor of fisheries conservation at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, estimates that a fly thrower can achieve the same fishing capacity as between four and 11 small boats per hour. This is based on a fly thrower covering 1 square meter of seabed on each fishing trip, compared to a smaller otter trawler, which would cover 231,500 square meters, or 92,600 square meters per hour, a- he declared.
“The destructive power of a boat is much higher than [that of] a lot of small boats, ”Kaiser said. “It comes down to a socio-economic problem: promoting one big ship against 11 smaller ones. “
The Guardian asked the MMO if it had conducted a fleet impact assessment and how many boats were allowed in the UK. He said that 15 UK registered and licensed vessels had purse seine fishing in the Channel and the North Sea between 2011 and 2021. He did not respond to the question regarding the assessment. impact.
He added: “MMO’s single issuing authority grants licenses to EU vessels to fish in UK waters provided they have a track record in accordance with the [EU-UK] trade and cooperation agreement (ATC). These licenses are not gear type specific and vessels engaged in purse seine fishing may also deploy other gear types.
A Defra spokesperson said: ‘We are examining the potential effects of fly fishing gear used by vessels in UK waters and have discussed this with different sectors of the industry. Any future decisions on the use of this or any other equipment will be based on the best available evidence. “