The deep ocean environment is perhaps the most important and least understood of the planet’s natural habitats. But in the west of Scotland it has been targeted by foreign fishing trawlers that drag heavy nets across the seabed, damaging everything in their path.
The European Commission (EC) has proposed a ban which the fishing industry, Scottish and UK Governments are opposing but pressure is mounting on ministers to back the ban by a coalition of 10 environmental groups.
The EC proposal for a ban on trawling the deep-sea bottom is due to be decided by the European Council of Ministers.
Deep-sea trawling has been described by some scientists as "the most destructive kind of fishing in history". Environmental groups point to more than 100 scientific studies suggesting that it is unsustainable and harmful to underwater wildlife. They have also recruited more than 300 international scientists in support of a ban.
If Scots realised that foreign fishing boats were wrecking the nation’s natural heritage they would be outraged, argued Claire Nouvian, director of the Bloom Association in Paris, which works to protect the deep ocean from trawling. She has been co-ordinating the campaign for a ban.
"If the Government supported a law that allowed Scottish castles and outstanding natural features to be wiped off the map to develop intensive, monoculture farming, Scots would probably march on London to stop it," she said. "The same is going on in Scottish deep waters but just because that part of Scotland’s beauty is hidden under water, very few even know."
Similar would be equally true if the general public could see just how destructive many forms of inshore fisheries are.
The National Trust for Scotland argue it is impossible for deep-sea fisheries to be sustainable. "Most deep-water species are incredibly long-lived," said the trust’s senior nature conservation adviser, Dr Richard Luxmoore. "Anyone who claims to be managing these fisheries sustainably is trying to pull the wool over your eyes."
Pete Ritchie, director of the sustainable food campaign, Nourish Scotland, described deep-sea fishing as "environmental vandalism". He said: "Out on the deep sea bed towards Rockall we are allowing industrial fishing boats, mostly from France and Spain, to create an underwater desert which is at least the size of Fife."
A blanket ban would be "completely disproportionate", according to Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association in Fraserburgh.
Extracted in part from an article in the Herald.
Category: EU Government News