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Marine Life & Conservation

Climate solutions must include ban on bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas, says Marine Conservation Society

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A new report from the Marine Conservation SocietyMarine unProtected Areas, has found that bottom trawling is taking place in 98% of the UK’s offshore Marine Protected Areas intended to protect vital seabed habitats.

The yearlong study by experts at the Marine Conservation Society assessed fishing activity in the UK’s offshore Marine Protected Areas. As a result of the report, the Marine Conservation Society is calling for a ban on bottom trawling in these protected areas.

Bottom trawling not only destroys vital underwater habitats but also churns up the seafloor and releases carbon into the ocean and, potentially, the atmosphere. It’s estimated that carbon emissions released by bottom trawling across the UK continental shelf between 2016 and 2040 could cost up to £9 billion to mitigate in other areas of the economy.

Out of all the UK’s Marine Protected Areas, just 5% currently ban bottom trawling. Continuing to allow this fishing method in areas intended to protect the seabed is equivalent to bulldozing a national park on land.

The Marine Conservation Society’s research found that fishing activity inside protected areas continues unabated:

  • All but one of the offshore Marine Protected Areas designated to protect the seabed experienced bottom trawling and dredging between 2015 and 2018
  • Areas of seabed later designated as MPAs in 2019, experienced the highest rates of fishing between 2015 and 18. There are no fishing restrictions inside these MPAs so nothing is in place to stop this level of fishing from continuing
  • Bottom trawl and dredge vessels spent at least 89,894 hours fishing the seabed inside Marine Protected Areas between 2015 and 2018.

Much of the carbon stored in the UK’s seafloor (93%) is found in the muddy and sandy sediments mainly in offshore waters where there are no trawling restrictions. As the seabed is trawled, with fishing gear dragging along the sea floor, carbon stored there is released into the water, where it can make its way into the atmosphere and could ultimately contribute to climate change.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, Principal Specialist in Marine Protected Areas at the Marine Conservation Society said: “Our research shows that Marine Protected Areas aren’t protecting our marine habitats.   While bottom trawling is still allowed we will continue to release more carbon from the seafloor and prevent complex carbon storing habitats from recovering.  In order to battle the climate emergency there has to be limits on where fishing of this kind can take place.

“We’ve been calling for adequate protections for UK seas for more than a decade, to protect and recover our degraded marine life, with very few results. With the introduction of the new Fisheries Act, bottom trawling must be banned in Marine Protected Areas that are designed to protect the seabed. Without a ban on this form of fishing, these areas of our seas simply aren’t recovering and we’re missing a crucial opportunity to combat climate change and ensure there are indeed plenty more fish in the sea.” 

A complete ban of bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas is proven to be effective; within five years of protection from bottom trawling, animals in three UK and Isle of Man Marine Protected Areas were found to be larger and more diverse. When areas of sea around the world were fully protected, biodiversity was found to increase by an average of 21%. Alongside flora and fauna bouncing back, carbon stores are left undisturbed and are able to build back up, as new life emerges on the seabed.

To date, agreeing fisheries management measures for offshore Marine Protected Areas through an EU consultation and evidence gathering process has been complicated by changing dynamics between other EU member states and the UK. Now, with the powers provided by the Fisheries Act 2020, the UK Governments can act more independently to recover our seas and combat climate change.

Read the Marine Conservation Society’s summary report here. For more information on the charity’s Marine Protected Area work, visit the website here.

Header Image: Curled octopus (Eledone cirrhosa) amongst a horse mussel bed (Modiolus modiolus) Shetland, Scotland, UK, August. Photographer: SCOTLAND:The Big Picture

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Marine Life & Conservation

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Paul Rose

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Next in a new series of podcasts shared by our friends Gemma and Ian aka The BiG Scuba Podcast…

Ian and Gemma chat to Paul Rose. A man at the front line of exploration and one of the world’s most experienced divers, field science and polar experts, Paul Rose helps scientists unlock and communicate global mysteries in the most remote and challenging regions of the planet.

He is an experienced television presenter and radio broadcaster. With a proven track record in business engagements, Paul is a sought-after speaker, chairman, host and moderator for industry, government and NGO events.

Former Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society(link is external) and Chair of the Expeditions and Fieldwork Division, Paul is currently Expedition Leader for the National Geographic Pristine Seas Expeditions.

He was the Base Commander of Rothera Research Station, Antarctica, for the British Antarctic Survey for 10 years and was awarded HM The Queen’s Polar Medal. For his work with NASA and the Mars Lander project on Mt Erebus, Antarctica, he received the US Polar Medal.

Paul is a mountain and polar guide leading Greenland Icecap crossing and mountaineering expeditions and polar science support logistics. He worked for four years as a Mountain Safety consultant to the oil industry in the Middle East.

On his 2012 Greenland expedition, Paul led the first expedition to successfully traverse a new 275km icecap route of Knud Rasmussen Land and repeated his first ascent of the north face of Gunnsbjørnfjeld, the highest mountain in the Arctic.

His professional diving work includes science support diving in Antarctica as the British Antarctic Survey’s Institute Diving Officer. He ran the US Navy diver training programme at Great Lakes Naval Training Centre and trained many emergency response dive teams including the Police, Fire Department and Underwater Recovery Teams. He remains a current and active PADI Dive Instructor.

Find out more about Paul Rose at www.paulrose.org


Find more podcast episodes and information at www.thebigscuba.com and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

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Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… TV Presenter Andy Torbet – Part 2: Andy talks about Marine Conservation (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive two-part Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-large, chats to Andy Torbet. In part two, Andy and Jeff talk about Marine Conservation.

Missed Part one? Watch it HERE.

Andy is an Underwater Explorer, Cave Diver, Freediver, Skydiver, Climber and Outdoorsman. He is also a TV Presenter on award-winning series for BBC, CBBC, Discovery, History Channel and Fully Charged Show’s Youtube Channel. Andy is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and The Explorers Club, and is also a Stunt Performer for TV and Films.

Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.


For more information, visit www.andytorbet.com

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