Thank you for your email regarding the use of supertrawlers in the UK’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
The UK’s seas and oceans are a vital part of our natural heritage and it is essential that we get our marine policies right if we are to protect the UK’s biodiversity, coastal economy and efforts to tackle the climate crisis. In particular, I agree that it is necessary that we protect our waters from overfishing, as well as from pollution and other environmental damage.
The sustainability of our marine environment has long been an important issue for me. Over the last 15 years as an MP, I have campaigned and spoken out in Parliament about the need to stop overfishing and institute effective marine protections. On the Environmental Audit Committee, I pushed for an extensive Marine Bill to better manage our fishing waters, which was realised in the Marine and Coastal Access Act under the last Labour government. The Act laid the groundwork for a network of MPAs and allowed for the designation of Marine Conservation Zones. I am bitterly disappointed that these protections are being thrown aside in favour of the unsustainable exploitation of our natural environment.
This Tory government claim they want to preserve the UK’s oceans, yet continue to allow supertrawlers to spend thousands of hours fishing in MPAs. They have done this even while the government’s own Marine Strategy assessment has highlighted that the UK’s marine environment is not in a healthy state, and after the independent Benyon review recommended upgrading protections for certain MPAs to prohibit “extractive, destructive and depositional” use. This government have shown a total disregard for the health of our oceans.
The discussion of our marine environment is particularly important as the UK establishes its post-Brexit fisheries policy. In October, the Labour Party – myself included – voted to ban supertrawlers that are over 100 metres in length from fishing inside MPAs during the Report Stage of the Fisheries Bill in the House of Commons. Although the government had in the past pledged to implement a more sustainable fisheries policy, the fact that they voted against this amendment suggests that they are in favour of the exact opposite.
My Labour colleague, Luke Pollard, is right to call for a strengthening of the current Blue Belt Programme and the setting up of new National Marine Parks. I will work with him to ensure that the government are held to account over their management of our MPAs. This work is even more important now that the Fisheries Bill has passed through the Commons without a ban on the use of supertrawlers in these protected waters.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts on the use of supertrawlers in the UK’s MPAs. You are, of course, welcome to get back in touch in future if you have additional points you wish to raise with me – I am always interested to hear my constituents’ views, and happy to help where I can.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury