September 12, 2022 – More than 200 scientists have signed a statement calling for the prohibition of bottom trawling, and other industrial activities, in the EU’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Currently, less than 1% of the EU’s waters are under true marine protection, meaning that over 99% of continental EU waters fail to be adequately protected from high-impact activities. Bottom trawling, a process which drags large weighted nets along the seafloor to catch fish, causes the strongest and most widespread ecological disturbances in marine areas. The process stirs up the seabed, disturbing carbon stores on the seafloor and killing one million tons of organisms bycatch each year. Bottom trawling, and other industrial extractive activities, are conducted in 59% of the EU’s so called Marine Protected Areas, leaving vulnerable species at high risk and impacting biodiversity. These activities also undermine conservation goals and deplete the natural capital that MPAs are supposed to grow.
National Geographic Pristine Seas Founder and co-signer of the declaration, Enric Sala, said,
“Marine protected areas should be truly protected from industrial fishing activities, otherwise we’re protecting nothing. Would we call an industrial logging operation a ‘protected forest’?” The signatories state that by banning these practices, and investing in full protection of MPAs, the EU has an opportunity to help marine ecosystems recover, leading to ecological and economic benefits.
ABOUT PRISTINE SEAS
National Geographic Pristine Seas is an exploration, research and media project founded and led by National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala. The Pristine Seas team is comprised of determined scientists, policy experts and filmmakers who work to inspire the creation of protected areas where marine life can thrive—while ensuring effective management for years to come. Pristine Seas has helped to inspire the creation of 25 marine reserves, an area totalling over 6.5M square kilometers.