FV Margiris
Trawlers similar to the Lithuanian factory ship FV Margiris have been tracked in British waters Credit:  Greenpeace/PA

Five European Union supertrawlers are fishing in British waters despite the coronavirus lockdown threatening a UK industry already struggling to cope with the collapse in the seafood market.

Three huge ships from Holland and two from France were tracked fishing off the coast of Scotland where they are netting tonnes of fish.

三级成人视频Greenpeace, which monitors the movements of these vast so-called fishing factories, said the vessels set off after Britain imposed its lockdown.

三级成人视频The arrival of the five boats, all over 260ft, represents a marked increase in such ships operating in  UK waters compared to a year ago, a Greenpeace spokesman said.

三级成人视频The UK fishing industry, worth £989 million a year, is reliant heavily on exports, with 70 per cent of its annual catch destined for Europe and Asia.

However, the coronavirus crisis has hit the hospitality trade hard, in turn delivering a devastating blow to the worldwide sale of fish, particularly shellfish.

Chris Thorne, of Greenpeace UK, said: “With the vast majority of the UK’s local and more sustainable fishing fleet stuck at port, unable to work because of a collapse in demand, these destructive supertrawlers are still plundering fish in UK waters. 

“The crisis has left the UK’s fishing communities high and dry, but in the meantime industrial fishing continues with business as usual.”

Screengrab shows recent movements of the Dutch trawler Willem van der Zwan  Credit: www.marinetraffic.com

Jeremy Percy, director of NUFTA, which represents Britain’s under 10m fishing boats which make up 80 per cent of the UK fleet, said the British fishing industry already needs help from the government to cope with the collapse in trade in fish caused by the pandemic.

三级成人视频“It is of course all the more galling when the vast majority of the under ten fleet is tied up and some facing financial ruin to see that the large fleet of mainly Dutch super trawlers is fishing hard in our waters off the west coast of Scotland,” he said.

“I'm unaware of the impact of the virus on our naval service’s ability to police these operations, but with such a powerful fleet active when we are otherwise engaged in fighting Covid-19 this undoubtedly puts unnecessary additional pressures on our forces.”

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs said ministers were aware this was a “challenging time” for fishermen and fish processors and they were working the industry to better understand the impact and whether further steps are 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 on what terms. 

“Any decisions about giving access to fish for vessels from the EU, or any other coastal states will be a matter for the UK to decide.”

三级成人视频Last month, the Scottish government announced a £5 million assistance package to help the country’s 650 seafood companies affected by the collapse in the market for shellfish.