Russian supertrawlers caught fishing in Special Area of Conservation

A Greenpeace investigation has discovered a fleet of Russian flagged and owned supertrawlers fishing in a UK Special Area of Conservation (SAC) off the Scottish coast.


The 11 supertrawlers (accurate as of 12.5.2020) are all over 100m in length, and are believed to be catching blue whiting. The Special Area of Conservation is called the Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC. 

The supertrawlers have all spent significant time since the end of April 2020, as shown by AIS tracking data (available on request), fishing in the Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC. As of 12.05.2020, 11 supertrawlers are still fishing in UK waters inside and around the Special Area of Conservation, which was approved by the European Commission in September 2017. 

Chris Thorne, an Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

“While the UK is in lockdown, this fleet of destructive supertrawlers has been plundering fish from what is supposed to be a protected area in UK waters. The intensity with which these vast ships fish is not compatible with a healthy ocean. They drag vast nets, up to a mile long, in their wake hoovering up fish and other marine life and disturbing the entire water column.

“If the UK government wants to be taken seriously as a world leader in marine protection, it must do more to restrict and regulate the activities of the international supertrawler fleet, and support small scale, sustainable fishing communities.”

Fishing in the Special Area of Conservation is managed by the EU Common Fisheries Policy. The Wyville-Thomson Ridge protects a stony reef which “supports diverse biological communities representative of hard substratum in deep water” [2]. 

The supertrawlers [3] left port in the Faroe Islands in late April and early May 2020, and headed directly to UK waters to fish, starting on the 27th April 2020. 

The COVID19 pandemic has decimated the UK’s small scale, more sustainable fishing fleet. Demand for this fleet’s catch has disappeared, forcing most small scale UK fishers to remain tied up at port, unable to work. Throughout the lockdown, multinational owned supertrawlers have been fishing in UK waters in stark contrast to the UK’s small scale local fleet, which makes up 77% of the UK’s entire fleet.

Greenpeace UK is calling for fishing by supertrawlers (trawlers over 100m) to be banned from all UK Marine Protected Areas




 [2] According to the JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) “The Wyville-Thomson Ridge is composed of extensive areas of stony reef interspersed with gravel areas and bedrock reef along its flanks, and supports diverse biological communities representative of hard substratum in deep water including a range of sponges; stylasterid, cup and soft corals; brachiopods; bryozoans; dense beds of featherstars and brittlestars; sea urchins, sea cucumbers and sea spiders. The stony reef is thought to have been formed by the ploughing movement of icebergs through the seabed at the end of the last ice age.”

 [3] The 11 Russia supertrawlers (accurate as of 12.5.2020) are as follows:

–      Kapitan Nazin
–      Karelia
–      Lira
–      Kapitan Demidenko
–      Boris Syromyatnikov
–      Kurshskaya Kosa
–      Yantarnyy
–      Kapitan Sulimov
–      Arctica
–      Baltiyskaya Kosa
–      Mekhanik S Agapo

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