Menu

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Irish Wildlife Trust Questions Why MEPs Did Not Support Ban on Bottom Trawling in Marine Protected Areas

5th May 2022
Grace O'Sullivan
Grace O'Sullivan

The Irish Wildlife Trust has welcomed a European Parliament report calling for action on bottom trawling but has questioned why most MEPs did not support a ban on the fishing technique in marine protected areas (MPAs).

A report by Portuguese socialist MEP Isabel Carvalhais entitled “Towards a sustainable blue economy in the EU” was adopted by MEPs this week.

The IWT has queried why the original text of the report calling for a ban on bottom trawling in all MPAs was not adopted, even though it had previously been supported in the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee.

“Instead, the majority of MEPs, including Irish Fine Gael and Sinn Féin representatives, voted to dilute the text and only restrict bottom trawling in so-called “strictly protected” areas, which cover only 1% of EU waters,” the IWT noted.

Another amendment calling for the EU to prohibit all environmentally damaging extractive industrial activities like mining and fossil fuel extraction in MPAs was adopted by all Irish MEPs.

The IWT said it believed bottom trawling “falls within the category of ‘environmentally damaging extractive industrial activities”. It noted that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature defines “industrial fishing” as all fishing using trawling gear that is dragged or towed across the seafloor or through the water column, and fishing using purse seines and large longlines.

Shadow rapporteur for the Greens/EFA group Grace O'Sullivan said the report “marks a serious step forward for the Fisheries Committee, which is a traditionally tough place to get environment protection legislation passed”.

“Our group achieved some key wins in terms of language on bottom-trawling, mapping carbon-rich marine habitats, and a ban on extractive activities in MPAs,” she said.

“However I am dismayed that a majority of MEPs are still unwilling to effectively protect MPAs,” O’Sullivan continued.

“In many MPAs in northern Europe, bottom-trawling is actually more intense than elsewhere. This is a complete contradiction in terms. Together with civil society, our work continues now, as member states must meet commitments under the Biodiversity Strategy and as the Commission prepares its ‘Action Plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems", she said

The European Parliament also voted to map and restore carbon-rich marine habitats, protecting them from activities that can disturb and release carbon stored in the seabed, like bottom trawling.

IWT marine policy and research officer Regina Classen welcomed this amendment as “particularly welcome and timely as Ireland plans to increase its MPA coverage to 30% by 2030”.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!