Marine Protected Areas: Fishing Vessels

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 23rd July 2021.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the blue carbon climate benefits of banning bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The UK recognises the important role that blue carbon habitats can play to prevent biodiversity loss and support adaptation and resilience to climate change, alongside carbon sequestration benefits. The Government understands that marine carbon stores in sediments can be released due to human activities such as bottom trawling. However, the magnitude of change in these carbon stores following trawling impacts remains uncertain, and difficult to quantify accurately based on the current knowledge.

To support our work here, we recently published a report from Cefas scientists that provides us with the evidence base to help understand the carbon stocks and fluxes of marine blue carbon habitats in UK waters. We continue to build the evidence base on blue carbon habitats in the UK.

The UK Government has a clear, long-standing ambition to implement measures which protect the marine environment, both internationally and domestically. This is set out in our 25 Year Environment Plan, which includes commitments to protect the UK 'Blue Belt' network of Marine Protected Areas and to support the protection of 30% of the global ocean by 2030.

England already has 40% of our waters in Marine Protected Areas (MPA), covering the majority of saltmarsh and seagrass blue carbon habitats. 98 sites in our inshore waters now have management measures in place to protect sensitive features from bottom-towed fishing gears. All existing MPAs in our offshore waters will be protected from fishing activities which could prevent them achieving their conservation objectives through a three-year by-law programme being undertaken by the Marine Management Organisation.

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