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EU supertrawlers plunder English waters as UK fleet struggles with impact of coronavirus


Five vast European Union fishing factory ships have steamed into English waters as the UK industry struggles to stay afloat amid collapsing sales as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Greenpeace UK said it was monitoring the movements of the massive supertrawlers - three from the Netherlands and two from France - off the Scottish coast where they are hauling up tons of fish every day. The campaign group said the vessels had all set off from their home ports after Britain announced its coronavirus lockdown.

A Greenpeace UK spokesman said the arrival of the massive fishing boats, which are all over 260ft, signals a worrying increase in the activity of such vessels in UK waters compared to a year ago.

The £989 million a year UK fishing industry relies massively on export trade with at least 70 per cent of its annual catch sold to the lucrative European and Asian markets.

Greenpeace UK spokesman Chris Thorne said: “With the vast majority of the UK’s local and more sustainable fishing fleet stuck at port, unable to work because of a collapse in demand, these destructive supertrawlers are still plundering fish in UK waters.

“The crisis has left the UK’s fishing communities high and dry, but in the meantime industrial fishing continues with business as usual.”

Industry leaders are calling on the Government to help the beleaguered English fleet.

Jeremy Percy, director of NUFTA, which represents Britain’s under 10-metre fishing boats which make up 80 per cent of the UK fleet, said the British fishing industry needs help to cope with the collapse of the trade in fish caused by the pandemic.

Mr Percy said: “It is of course all the more galling when the vast majority of the under ten fleet is tied up and some facing financial ruin to see that the large fleet of mainly Dutch super trawlers is fishing hard in our waters off the west coast of Scotland.

“I'm unaware of the impact of the virus on our naval service’s ability to police these operations, but with such a powerful fleet active when we are otherwise engaged in fighting COVID-19 this undoubtedly puts unnecessary additional pressures on our forces.”

The Scottish government has announced a £5 million bail-out to help the country’s 650 seafood companies affected by the collapse of the shellfish export market.