Five European Union supertrawlers fish in British waters despite the coronavirus lockout, threatening a British industry that is already struggling to cope with the collapsing seafood market.
Three huge Dutch and two French vessels were followed to fish off the Scottish coast where they catch tons of fish.
Greenpeace, which monitors the movements of these large fishing factories, said the ships left after Britain imposed its lockdown.
The arrival of the five vessels, all over 260 feet, represents a marked increase in these vessels operating in British waters compared to a year ago, said a spokesperson for Greenpeace.
The British fishing industry, worth £ 989 million a year, is heavily dependent on exports, with 70% of its annual catch going to Europe and Asia.
However, the coronavirus crisis hit the hospitality industry hard, in turn causing a devastating blow to the global sale of fish, especially crustaceans.
Chris Thorne of Greenpeace UK said: “The vast majority of the UK’s more sustainable local fishing fleet is stuck in port, unable to work due to a collapse in demand, these destructive supertrawlers are still looting fish in British waters.
“The crisis has left British fishing communities high and dry, but in the meantime, industrial fishing continues as usual.”
Jeremy Percy, Director of NUFTA, which represents British fishing vessels under 10 meters which represent 80% of the British fleet, said that the British fishing industry already needed government help to cope the collapse of the fish trade caused by the pandemic.
“It is of course all the more exasperating that the vast majority of the fleet under the age of ten is moored and that some face financial ruins to see that the large fleet of mainly Dutch super trawlers is fishing hard in our waters at off the west coast of Scotland, “he said.
“I am not aware of the impact of the virus on the ability of our naval service to control these operations, but with such a powerful fleet active while we are otherwise engaged in the fight against Covid-19, this exercises without any doubts unnecessary additional pressure on our forces. ”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the ministers were aware that this was a “difficult time” for fishermen and fish processors and that they were working with the industry to better understand the impact and if further action was needed.
He added: “At the end of the” transition period ” [for Brexit], we will have the right to decide who fishes in our waters and under what conditions.
“Any decision regarding access to fish for EU or any other coastal state vessels will be made by the UK.”
Last month the Scottish government announced a £ 5m aid package to help the 650 seafood companies in the country affected by the crustacean market collapse.