A total of 57 UK MPs have put their names to a letter coordinated by environmental pressure group Greenpeace, calling for a comprehensive ban which would prevent the massive ships from fishing in any of the conservation areas which surround the UK. Sir Roger Gale, Tory MP for North Thanet, is one of the signatories.
He told Express.co.uk: “We have this absurd situation where we have these protected zones around our coast but we are not protecting them from the predations of supertrawlers.
“It’s as simple as that – there is no point having protected zones if you don’t protect them.
“These things are huge, massive – they are hoovers.
“I thing we need to start taking a firm grip on this now, irrespective of any agreement which might be reached on fishing.
“A lot of these zones are in our waters and these vessels come from all over – Russia, the Netherlands – and they are basically floating fish factories.”
“We are trying to protect these zones with very good reason, to protect the stocks also to protect endangered marine species.
He added: “The writing is on the wall – supertrawlers have no place in our most sensitive and ecologically important waters. Allowing these floating fish factories to operate in our Marine Protected Areas undermines the Government’s vision for ocean protection both at home and on the world stage.
“This Government must heed the call from MPs, scientists, campaigners and one of its own cabinet ministers, and commit to a ban on supertrawlers and other destructive vessels operating in UK MPAs.
“This would pave the way for a network of fully or highly protected marine areas covering at least 30 percent of UK waters, and demonstrate that this Government is serious about being a world leader on marine protection.”
A Greenpeace study early this year revealed foreign vessels racked up almost 3,000 hours fishing in UK MPAs last year.
Jeremy Percy, director of the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUFTA), which represents fishermen who use boats of less than ten metres in length, told Express.co.uk: “It is a fundamental nonsense to allow these vessels into MPAs.
“Irrespective of their claims to have a zero by catch, evidence of similar operations gives rise to concerns.
“In relation to their activities in the English Channel, there appears to be a ‘coincidental’ washing up of dead cetaceans along their path.”
A Defra spokeswoman told Express.co.uk: “The UK is a global leader in the fight to protect our seas with our ‘Blue Belt’ of protected waters nearly twice the size of England.
“The Common Fisheries Policy currently restricts our ability to implement tougher protection, but leaving the EU and taking back control of our waters as an independent coastal state means we can introduce stronger measures.”