Read a summary and our conclusions below, or download the full report.
In June 2020, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise visited the Dogger Bank MPA on a fact-finding mission, to bear witness to the destructive fishing practices that are still permitted within an area which is supposed to be legally protected.
Greenpeace investigators on board the Arctic Sunrise witnessed extensive bottom trawling, which directly damages the Dogger Bank’s sandbanks, the protected feature of the MPA. According to the JNCC the Dogger Bank’s protected feature is in “Unfavourable” condition.
Greenpeace investigators also discovered widespread illegal fishing activity in the protected area. 11 out of 19 fishing vessels observed, all bottom trawlers, had purposefully turned off their Automatic Identification System (AIS), something which is illegal under both UK and international maritime law.
The Dogger Bank MPA is just one example of how this Government’s network of Marine Protected Areas is not fit for purpose. This is particularly true for offshore MPAs, those 12 nautical miles or more from the coast. Just 5 out of the 73 offshore MPAs ‘may be’ progressing towards their conservation targets, according to the Government’s own data, and the Government isn’t even sure if these 5 are actually making progress because just 2 out of the 73 offshore MPAs have site condition monitoring in place.
Our Government continuing to allow bottom trawling in the Dogger Bank, an MPA which specifically protects the seabed, makes a mockery of the word protected. It’s the equivalent of driving a bulldozer through a protected forest. We wouldn’t stand for this on land, so we won’t stand for it at sea either. Government cannot continue to present itself as a global ocean champion, while allowing such egregious examples of destructive industrial fishing to take place in legally protected marine areas.
The Government must ban destructive bottom trawling, and all other forms of industrial fishing, from UK MPAs. This will be the first step towards properly protecting the Dogger Bank and establishing a network of fully or highly protected MPAs across 30% of UK waters by 2030.