21 January 2015
Source: The Independent
Author: Lewis Smith
Sixty marine scientists have signed an open letter urging the fisheries minister, George Eustice, to stop Spanish and French fishermen damaging wildlife in the deep sea. The scientists were joined by MPs in demanding an end to bottom trawling below 600 metres in all European waters. The Tory MP Richard Benyon, a former fisheries minister, and the former Labour environment minister Ben Bradshaw are also planning to write to Mr Eustice.
Mr Benyon said the economics of deep sea bottom trawling “don’t stand up”, with much of the European fleet heavily subsidised. He added: “This is the UK’s marine heritage that is being damaged into destruction but the vast majority is by other nations’ fishers.”
About a third of the seas surrounding and controlled by the UK are deeper than 600m but 94 per cent of the fish legally caught there are taken by French and Spanish vessels. Stocks of orange roughies have already been destroyed and scientists fear other species, including deep water sharks, will follow.
Banning deep sea bottom trawling would affect just 12 of the UK’s 5,000 fishing vessels, a Commons briefing was told, and those 12 take less than 1,000 tonnes each year. The main commercial species in bottom trawling are roundnose grenadiers, black scabbardfish and blue ling, but fish belonging to dozens more species are discarded.
The scientists warned that bottom trawling below 600m damages the seabed and the rare and slow-growing fish and other wildlife that live there. They are particularly concerned at the loss of rare cold water coral reefs, groups of sponges, and groups of mysterious, tennis-ball-sized, single-cell creatures called xenophyophores.
“We are calling on you to exercise leadership to negotiate a new EU regulation to phase-out bottom trawl fishing in the deep sea, among other measures, to protect vulnerable species and habitats,” they wrote.
The DSCC was founded in 2004, to address the issue of bottom trawling on the high seas in the absence of an effective governance regime. The coalition is made up of over 70 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), fishers organisations and law and policy institutes, all committed to protecting the deep sea.
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