Concerns have been raised over destructive practices such as fishing using electric shocks continuing in protected areas of the UK’s seas after Brexit.
The UK will leave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, which will enable the country to set rules governing its offshore fishing waters.
Fisheries minister Victoria Prentis told the Commons committee on the Fisheries Bill that the UK government proposed to begin consulting on rules that would affect offshore marine protected areas after the end of the transition period.
Labour and campaigners have criticised the failure to ban destructive practices such as electric pulse fishing and beam trawling in the offshore protected areas as soon as possible.
An investigation by the Blue Marine Foundation showed Dutch electric pulse and beam trawlers had been found fishing in the Haisborough and North Norfolk marine protected areas this year, along with a couple of UK vessels.
Electric pulse fishing involves dragging electrodes over the seabed to shock the fish that live in the sediment and force them into the trawl net, and an EU ban is due to come into effect from July 1 2021, Blue Marine Foundation said.
In the UK, the Government has said it will ban pulse fishing after Brexit.
But with the consultation on rules that will govern areas such as pulse fishing and beam trawling not set to start until next year, Blue Marine Foundation said the destructive practices would continue after Brexit.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said: “There is no excuse for foreign fishing boats being in British waters using cruel fishing methods like electro-pulse beam trawling. Labour wants this method of fishing banned.
“Electrocuting fish is cruel and kills younger fish that might otherwise swim free of nets designed to protect young fish. Beam trawlers and other bottom towed gears cause significant problems for our marine life.
“There’s a lot of soundbites on fishing from ministers but often precious little action using the powers they already have. Enforcing a ban on electro-pulse fishing has to be a priority not just after January 1, but right now.”
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: “We are putting sustainable fishing and protection of our seas and sea life at the heart of our future fishing strategy.
“This is why we have already put in place a ‘blue belt’ of protected waters nearly twice the size of England. The Fisheries Bill proposes a new power to allow the introduction of measures for conservation purposes, which will enable us to better manage our Marine Protected Areas.”
Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.