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SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: December 20, 2018

SNIP: Destructive trawling is more intense inside official marine sanctuaries, while endangered fish are more common outside them, a startling analysis of Europe’s seas has revealed.

It shows that far from conserving sealife, many legal marine protected areas (MPAs) are being damaged by industrial fishing. The work has exposed “the big lie” behind European marine conservation, experts say, with most MPAs completely open to trawling.

The researchers were able to assess the activity of fishing vessels in great detail thanks to satellite tracking equipment that is now compulsory on ships.

This revealed that commercial trawling activity was on average almost 40% higher inside MPAs than in unprotected areas. Furthermore, endangered and critically endangered fish species such as sharks and rays were five times more abundant outside the MPAs.

Prof Callum Roberts, at the University of York, UK, who was not part of the research, said: “This compelling study reveals the big lie behind European marine conservation. To be effective, all MPAs should be protected from trawling and dredging at a minimum, and many of them should prohibit all fishing.”

The reason for MPAs being worse at conserving marine life than unprotected areas may be because the MPAs cover those parts of the sea that are richest in fish, which are the same places that fishing vessels target with little if any restriction.

A quarter of the UK’s waters are covered by 300 MPAs, but Roberts said just 1% of the area was protected from the most destructive fishing methods – bottom trawling and dredging, in which gear is dragged across the seabed.