Fishing boat flotilla arrives in Westminster to protest against broken Brexit promises

A flotilla of fishing boats, accompanied by Greenpeace activists, is sailing up the Thames to the Houses of Parliament today.


The fishermen and Greenpeace are sending a message to the government that without urgent action to stop industrial fishing, fishing communities and marine ecosystems will suffer irreparable harm. Implementing better protections for UK waters to save jobs and support fishing communities were key Brexit promises which have not been delivered.

Photo and video is available here.

The flotilla will arrive at Westminster and will remain on the river outside parliament until 11.00am. Protests by Greenpeace activists, displaying banners reading “No fish, no future” and calling for stronger marine protection measures in solidarity with fishing communities, will take place on Westminster and Lambeth bridges simultaneously. Testimonials of fishermen struggling because of industrial fishing will be played over loudspeakers.

The public strongly supports action from the government to stop industrial fishing. Half a million have signed a Greenpeace petition calling for industrial fishing vessels to be banned from Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Polling shows 4 in 5 want supertrawlers banned from MPAs.

Fishermen, in the first major flotilla to sail up the Thames since the Brexit flotilla of 2016, have returned today to make clear to ministers that they must deliver on their promises to level up coastal communities, or fishing communities and jobs will disappear. 

Fishermen in the flotilla have declared a state of emergency in the Channel and Southern North Sea. This declaration calls for the strongest marine protection measures ever demanded by UK fishermen, including a full ban on industrial trawlers over 55m and fly-shooters in the entire Channel and Southern North Sea [1], and bans for supertrawlers, bottom trawlers and fly-shooters in all Channel MPAs.

Neil Whitney, a south coast fishermen who is part of the flotilla, said:

“Brexit was meant to save us, but instead we’ve been left high and dry. These big factory boats keep fishing in our waters, devastating fish populations. There’s nothing left for us local fishermen. We need the government to do what it promised, and ban industrial fishing to protect us fishermen and our fishing communities.”

Martin Yorwarth, a south coast fisherman who is part of the flotilla, said:

“Fishermen like me care deeply about our oceans. We’re custodians of our seas, and we need them to stay healthy to keep us in the job. It hurts me to see these huge factory ships and fly-shooters plundering our waters, hoovering up fish, destroying habitats and leaving nothing left for us. If our government doesn’t do something to stop the industrial fishing that’s destroying our oceans, then there won’t be another generation of local fishermen like me.”

Fiona Nicholls, an Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

“Our oceans and our fishing communities are in crisis. Even in supposedly protected areas, industrial fishing vessels are destroying marine ecosystems and emptying our waters of fish. This is a genuine emergency, and without urgent action from the government to rein in industrial fishing by banning supertrawlers, bottom trawlers and fly-shooters, there won’t be enough fish left to sustain our local fishing fleet which is the backbone of the UK’s coastal communities.

“The government must heed the warning of fishermen and environmentalists. Never before have fishermen called for such strong marine protection measures, which should give politicians some idea of the scale of the problem facing them. Brexit gave us a once in a generation opportunity to become a true world leader in marine protection, with thriving coastal communities, but our government is letting this opportunity pass us by.”

Less than one third of key UK fish populations are in a healthy state. Supertrawlers, fly-shooters and bottom trawlers spend thousands of hours each year fishing in UK protected areas. Supertrawlers’ fishing times in UK protected areas increased by 1000% between 2017 and 2020 [2], and bottom trawlers’ fishing times in UK protected areas increased by 10% between 2019 and 2020 [3]. Fly-shooters spent 32,000 hours fishing in UK waters in 2020 with no impact assessment by the UK government.

The Prime Minister in January 2021 said that Brexit gave the UK a chance to ban ‘hoover trawlers’ from UK waters. Brexit, and the UK’s departure from the Common Fisheries Policy has given the UK government new powers to restrict industrial fishing in UK waters, and in UK Marine Protected Areas. However, despite this, no new protections are in place 9 months after the UK’s official departure.

In response to Greenpeace’s campaigning, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has consulted on introducing bottom trawling restrictions in four offshore MPAs [4]. They plan to consult on introducing limited bottom trawling restrictions across all 40 offshore English MPAs over the next 3 years. The speed and extent of proposed action is inadequate for the crisis facing our oceans and coastal communities, and incompatible with the government’s own goal of properly protecting 30% of our oceans by 2030 [5].  

Support for stronger marine protection measures cuts across political divides, with a cross party group of over 85 MPs signing an open letter last year calling for a supertrawler ban.

Testimonials from fishermen are available here



Greenpeace UK press office: / 020 7865 8255 

James Hanson: / 07801 212 994






[5] The MMO’s approach to fisheries restrictions in MPAs assesses extractive activities’ impact on protected features. This lends itself to partial restrictions on an MPA by MPA basis, depending on the protected features. Since most offshore MPAs are designated to protect the seabed, this means the MMO may consider some restrictions on bottom trawling within them, but not necessarily full bans, nor any restrictions on other destructive industrial activity like supertrawlers or fly shooters. While protecting specific features is important, it ignores the scientific consensus that fully protected MPAs, covering 30% of the world’s oceans, are the absolute minimum required for marine ecosystems’ survival. This scientific consensus must be at the heart of the MMO’s approach to fisheries management. 

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