Greenpeace patrol supertrawler Willem van der Zwan
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Using official figures published by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Pro-Brexit think tank Facts4EU’s report highlights the fact that 25 percent of EU tonnage operating in seas off the coast of Britain is accounted for by just 18 enormous vessels. Of these, the Polish-flagged Annelise Ilena is the biggest, weighing in at 14,055 gross tones and measuring 472 feet – well over 100 more than the pitch at Wembley Stadium, and the length of 13 Routemaster buses laid end-to-end.
Another, the Lithuanian-flagged, Dutch-owned Margiris, is just three feet shorter at 469 feet, and weighs 9,499 tonnes.
In total, almost 1,700 EU vessels have been granted licences to enter British waters (within 200 nautical miles) this year.
Facts4EU’s chairman Leigh Evans told Express.co.uk: “Our latest report reveals that apart from the fact that the UK has followed the rules of the EU’s diktats in the ‘Trade & Cooperation Agreement’, it has even licensed EU super trawlers which are so big they haven’t got approval in other parts of the world.
“When EU vessels are longer than 13 London buses put end-to-end, this is fishing on an industrial scale.”
Boris Johnson has not yet imposed restrictions on so-called supertrawlers (Image: GETTY/Greenpeace)
Top 10 EU supertrawlers in UK waters in terms of tonnage (Image: Express)
Facts4EU’s research reveals:
- Total tonnage of EU fishing fleet licensed for UK waters: 425,265 tonnes
- Total tonnage of UK fishing fleet after decades of EU Common Fisheries Policy: 203,703 tonnes
- EU’s fleet by sheer tonnage, licensed for British waters, is twice the size of the UK’s in the UK’s own waters
- 25 percent of EU tonnage is accounted for by one percent of the EU vessels (18 ships)
- 40 percent is accounted for by less than three percent of the vessels (50 ships)
- 50 percent is accounted for by less than six percent of the vessels (100 ships)
Margiris pictured in the English Channel (Image: Greenpeace)
The report includes a list of the 25 largest vessels operating in UK waters by tonnage, with the Annelies Ilena at the top.
The fourth-largest, the Maartje Theadora, a German-flagged ship weighing 9,082 tonnes, was prosecuted by France in 2012 for breaking EU law and fined more than £0.5 million after being stopped with £1million in illegally caught fish on board.
While there is no specific definition of the word supertrawler, in general it refers to vessels equipped with the means to process, chill and freeze daily catches, enabling them to stay at sea for weeks at a time.
Their nets can be up to 1950 ft long by 650 ft wide (600m x 200m) and in terms of their gross tonnage, many of them exceed that of a British Type 23 guided missile frigate.
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Carolien, a Dutch-flagged ship weighing 7,052 gross tonnes (Image: GETTY)
Supertrawler Maartje Theadora is shadowed by Greenpeace activists (Image: Greenpeace)
Mr Evans said: “It’s not so much fishing as ‘hoovering up our marine environment’.
“It’s definitely not what ordinary people think of when they think of a fishing boat.
“And when the nets of some of these ships cover an area the size of over 450 tennis courts, people might really start to wonder what’s going on.”
He added: “On top of all of that, we have the French complaining bitterly and threatening the UK because 35 of their smallest boats have not been given licences.
Fishing: Super trawler Margiris roams the English Channel
“These small boats have failed – after nine months and two extensions – to provide any proof to the UK that they have a history of fishing within our 12-mile limit. Those that provided proof got licences.
“We can only hope that our report makes waves in Whitehall.”
The environmental pressure group Greenpeace has been vociferous on the subject of super trawlers, and is calling for a total ban on them operating in specially designated Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr in January, the Prime Minister suggested Brexit would enable the UK to “ban these huge hoover trawlers that come in and hoover up everything off the bottom of the sea”.
Greenpeace campaigners send a message to Boris Johnson (Image: Greenpeace)
However, more than nine months later, no action has been taken.
Speaking to Sky News last month, Greenpeace activist Fiona Nicholls said: “Over the last few months, Greenpeace has been out in the Channel patrolling supposedly green protected areas as part of our Operation Ocean Witness campaign.
“We found it’s basically an industrial free-for-all for these really large fishing boats, many of whom are not from the UK.”
In statement issued in specific relation to the Margiris, the Pelagic Fishing Association (PFA), said: “The Margiris of course is fishing based on and within allowed catch quota – in this case catch quota for North Sea herring – and under entirely legal conditions.
EU countries most reliant on UK waters (Image: Express)
“Also the Margiris is catching this North Sea herring under the sustainability label of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which is the most renowned and best-known sustainability label for fisheries.
“Fishing for herring by the Margiris is done with the same gear type, gear size and acoustic fish find equipment as any other pelagic trawler fishing for herring.
“There is therefore no difference whatsoever between the way the Margiris is fishing and other pelagic trawlers are fishing, including the more than 20 UK pelagic trawlers (mostly based in Scotland/Shetlands).”
Speaking last month, a UK Government spokesman said: “Protecting our vital fish stocks and those dependent on them is paramount which is why all EU vessels granted access to fish in UK waters must comply with UK rules and regulations, including those on sustainability.
“We have heard the concerns raised about fishing pressures in the English Channel and want to work with industry to tackle the issues. We have already stopped pulse trawling by EU and English-registered vessels in UK waters and now we have left the EU, the MMO is consulting on additional safeguards for our Marine Protected Areas.
“Any decisions on managing fisheries in future will be based on the best available evidence.”