CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed a ban on fishermen trawling for cockles and clams in an area of Portsmouth Harbour.
Fishermen had been dragging cages off the back of their boats through the mud in an endangered area of the harbour north of Portchester Castle in to Fareham Creek.
But the government moved to ban the practice, known as bottom-trawling, because of damage to eelgrass beds in the area, which threatened marine life in the harbour’s ecosystem.
The move comes after voluntary agreements signed by fishermen in 2009 to stop bottom-trawling near eelgrass beds failed to halt the technique still being used.
Robin Chandler, 66, from Portchester has been campaigning to stop bottom trawling in Portsmouth Harbour since the mid-1990s.
He said: ‘I’m chuffed they have done this – it’s great news. We need to pressure the agencies now to make sure it is enforced.
‘You would not dream of allowing someone to take a bulldozer to Queen Elizabeth Country Park to dig up earthworms but that’s effectively what has been happening in Portsmouth Harbour.’
Fellow campaigner David Oliver, 64, from Portchester said: ‘I remember when I was 15 I used to go down to the mud flats and there were schools and schools of fish there but now there’s nothing left. It’s very sad that everything is being destroyed in the name of greed and profit and today’s youngsters can’t enjoy it.’
The by-law, which is the first of its kind in the UK, bans bottom trawling in any area north of Portchester Castle or Frater in Gosport all the way up in to Fareham Creek.
Fishermen are still allowed to bottom trawl in the rest of Portsmouth Harbour – despite it being a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Dylan Todd, Natural England’s south coast marine advisor, said: ‘If evidence was found of habitat damage caused by fishing practices in the rest of the harbour then of course we would review our position and take action.’