Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor
THOUGH still an island, Britain is now surrounded by desert. New research has shown that repeated trawling has turned much of the sea bed around the UK into a barren wasteland.
Scientists using deep sea photography and painstaking analysis of hundreds of years of fishing records have discovered an underwater terrain, once rich in species such as oysters, that has now largely been denuded of life.
Their study also suggests that Britain’s coastal waters may have turned from sparkling blue towards a dirty greyer colour, partly because of the destruction of shellfish beds.
Centuries of trawler activity have exposed the sea’s muddy bottom, allowing silt and sediment to rise up into the water.
“These changes have taken place over such a long time that humans cannot see them happening,” said Callum Roberts, professor of marine biology at York University. “Fishing, especially trawling, has destroyed sea life and left us surrounded by a marine desert.”