Page last updated at 01:47 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Call to widen curbs on UK fishing

Fishing
Environmental campaigners say the Marine Bill must be strengthened

Fishing should be banned in almost a third of UK seas to help stocks recover from decades of harm, campaigners say.

The Co-operative Group wants 30% of UK waters to become "no-take" reserves by 2020 to reverse decades of overfishing.

It says just eight out of 47 fishing stocks are healthy and warns once-common species now face extinction.

The campaign, backed by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), calls for the measures to be included in the government's Marine Bill.

The Co-operative's Marine Reserves Now campaign aims to help wildlife recover from overfishing and habitat destruction.

Spokesman Paul Monaghan said: "The need for an extensive network of marine reserves around the UK is an uncomfortable truth.

"In UK waters there are 22 species - such as the common skate and Atlantic halibut - listed as critically endangered.

We have dithered while Rome burns
Dr Jean-luc Solandt
Marine Conservation Society

"Most worryingly, the rate of biodiversity loss is accelerating, highlighting the need for quick and decisive science-led action," he said.

Other once-common species facing extinction include the angel shark, sturgeon and leatherback turtle.

Dr Jean-luc Solandt, the MCS's biodiversity policy officer, said: "Marine reserves are a cost-effective way to achieve benefits for wildlife and the fish species that rely on habitats being protected for the long term. it makes social, economic and ecological sense."

'Window-dressing'

He said the recently published Marine Bill puts a duty on ministers to create marine conservation zones, but does not indicate protection levels.

In terms of recovery and sustainability, it was "window-dressing", he said.

The Marine and Coastal Access Bill, aimed at helping wildlife thrive in biologically diverse seas, is due to have a second reading in the Lords this month.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution recommended four years ago that 30% of UK seas be protected as marine reserves closed to commercial fishing.

There are two highly protected marine reserves - off Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel and Lamlash Bay, in Scotland.

The MCS also wants protection for specialist areas like sea grass beds and reefs.

Around 10% of Lyme Bay, in Dorset, was permanently closed this summer due to the damaging effects of scallop dredging and bottom trawling on reefs, corals and rare sponges.

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