UK MPs push to phase out bottom trawling, gillnetting

In an effort to minimize harm to deep-sea ecosystems in UK waters, MPs from across party divides gathered on Wednesday to urge the government to influence EU negotiations regarding commercial fishing practices.

The UK government help to phase out bottom trawling and gillnetting, fishing methods that many environmental groups believe are the most destructive to the sea bed.

Richard Benyon, Conservative MP from Newbury, hosted the Parliamentary event, held in cooperation with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, Bloom Association, the Environmental Justice Foundation and the New Economics Foundation.

“As the former minister responsible for the marine environment I know how important it is that we protect our underwater heritage,” he said. “The seas around these British Isles are home to unique habitats and species, but deep-water trawling is having a detrimental effect. Many areas of our sea bed are so fragile that they may never recover.”

Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP from Exeter, agreed that the UK must get involved. “The UK played a leading role at the United Nations in forging a global agreement to protect the wonders of the deep sea on the high seas. We must now be equally energetic in doing the same under EU law to protect the ecosystems in our own waters,” he said.

Speakers at the event included marine biologist Dr. David Bailey from the University of Glasgow; Professor Phil Weaver, coordinator of the EU Hermione deep-sea research project; Dr. Kerry Howell from the University of Plymouth’s School of Marine Science and Engineering; and Dr. Clive Trueman, seniorlecturer in Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton.

Sixty scientists have called on Fisheries Minister George Eustice MP to exercise leadership in the EU negotiations and support a phase-out of bottom trawl fishing. Deep-sea bottom trawlers drag heavy nets fixed to steel plates and cables across the deep seabed, damaging corals and sponges.


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