The fishing of sandeels in British waters might be banned this year under UK government plans to protect Atlantic puffin and (black-legged) kittiwake numbers
The tiny fish are important parts of seabird diets and many are harvested, mainly by non-UK fishing boats, to be made into feed for farmed salmon and livestock. While the largest threat to their population numbers is heating seas under climate breakdown, industrial fishing pressures them further.
A call for evidence by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) last year found that the industrial fishing of sandeels could be negatively affecting the populations of some of the UK’s endangered seabird species.
Now, as revealed by the Guardian, sources at the department have confirmed that a ban on the practice will be put in motion early this year, starting with a consultation of stakeholders in January. While the move is likely to dismay some in the fishing industry, wildlife campaigners have welcomed a potential ban.
The RSPB’s head of marine policy, Helen McLachlan, said: “A UK-wide ban on industrial trawling for sandeels would be gamechanging in our efforts to help save our threatened seabirds. The UK’s globally important seabird colonies are in trouble with iconic birds like puffins and kittiwakes at risk of being pushed to the brink of extinction.
“A ban on sandeel fishing in UK waters would protect the very fish that our amazing seabirds, their chicks and many other marine species need to survive. Over the last few decades our seabirds have declined in the face of increasing threats from climate change and other human activity.
“We’re running out of time to save some of the UK’s most loved wildlife and a ban on industrial sandeel fishing could be the single greatest thing decision-makers can do next year to throw our seabirds a lifeline.”