More than two-thirds of people back a ban on damaging fishing methods in protected areas of the sea, a poll suggests.

The findings come as conservationists warn fishing such as bottom trawling – in which a weighted net is pulled along the seafloor to catch fish – risks releasing millions of tonnes of carbon stored in the seabed in protected areas.

Data from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) estimates UK marine protected areas in the waters of the continental shelf store around 26.5 million tonnes of carbon.

Industrial methods of fishing such as bottom trawling risk releasing this “blue carbon” by disturbing the seabed where it would otherwise be stored, adding to the climate crisis rather than helping fight it, environmentalists say.

Bottom trawlers are operating in 98% of the UK’s marine protected areas, designated to protect sea wildlife and habitats which can be damaged by the fishing process, MCS said.

Polling commissioned by Greenpeace UK suggests the public support a ban on bottom trawling in marine protected areas around the UK.

The survey of 1,883 people by YouGov found 71% of those quizzed did not think bottom trawling should be allowed in protected areas of the sea, and 69% supported a ban in those places.