FOR WORLD Oceans Day, Greenpeace UK has launched Operation Ocean Witness to patrol UK marine protected areas off the nation’s south coast.

The six-month operation, involving a new Greenpeace ship called Sea Beaver, will patrol the UK’s protected areas, including the Dorset coastline, in a bid to protect the UK’s marine protected areas from destructive fishing.

Operation Ocean Witness will operate out of Newhaven in East Sussex from June until Autumn 2021.

Chris Thorne, an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “Our government calls itself a global ocean champion while allowing destructive industrial fishing vessels to operate freely in our protected areas.

"We’ve heard enough rhetoric, which is why we’re launching Operation Ocean Witness.

"We will do our government’s job for them, holding the most destructive fishing vessels to account and making sure our government can’t hide the destruction taking place in our oceans, which so often remains beyond the horizon and out of sight for most of the public."

This comes as Oceana revealed on June 9 that bottom trawlers spent 68,000 hours fishing in UK protected areas set up specifically to protect the seabed in 2020.

Greenpeace’s Operation Ocean Witness will document and expose the destructive fishing practices the UK government still permits in UK protected areas.

It will also document the biodiversity of the UK’s seas, and engage with fishing communities along the south coast to build a movement for a fairer, more sustainable future for the UK’s seas.

Melissa Moore, head of UK policy at Oceana in Europe, said: “Our analysis of 2020 data released today has found that there was a large increase in fishing with destructive bottom towed gear in UK Marine Protected Areas despite the pandemic.

“This activity contravenes wildlife law and needs to be banned from our protected areas, rather than licensing over a thousand UK and EU vessels to continue their damaging activities with impunity.

“International commitments are welcome but must be matched by domestic action.”