Pesca a strascico e relitti: nuovo allarme dalla Gran Bretagna

E' ormai noto a molti che la pesca a strascico è una grave minaccia per la vita sui fondali marini e per la conservazione della biodiversità; ciò su cui invece pochi si soffermano è il fatto che la pesca a strascico ha effetti distruttivi, ovviamente, anche sui relitti antichi  e sui siti archeologici sommersi. Un articolo comparso sulla testata britannica 'The Observer' ha recentemente richiamato l'attenzione su questo aspetto, spiegando che le ultime indagini condotte nel Regno Unito hanno mostrato come la grandissima parte degli oltre 32.000 relitti posati sui fondali inglesi è in condizioni precarie proprio per attività connesse con la pesca industriale.  Anche la HMS Victory, la cui scoperta, avvenuta nelle acque del Canale della Manica per mano della compagnia americana Odyssey, è stata annunciata pochissimo tempo fa, versa in condizioni difficili.

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Trawlers are 'destroying history on the seabed'

Britain's love of seafood is helping to destroy the nation's maritime heritage. That is the stark warning of marine archaeologists who say hundreds of sunken ships, from Elizabethan warships to second world war submarines, are being torn apart by trawlers - fishing for scallops and flatfish - dragging chains and cables across the seabed.

Investigations using robot submarines have revealed that serious damage has been inflicted on vast numbers of the 32,000 pre-1945 ships whose wrecks litter Britain's coastal waters. Examples include the recently discovered 18th-century warship HMS Victory, which led Britain's fleet before Nelson's flagship of the same name. In 1744, Victory sank with all hands near the Channel Islands. Cannon hauled from the wreck showed it had suffered severe damage from trawlers.

"Marine wrecks give us a very important picture of life in the past," said Dr Sean Kingsley, of Wreck Watch International. "Everything used by the crew - pipes, cards, dice, cooking utensils - is preserved by the mud into which the ship settles, even its wooden hull."

Newly discovered wrecks are usually left undisturbed where they are assumed to be safe. But surveys by controversial US company Odyssey Marine Exploration suggest such wrecks are in danger from trawling, quarrying and oil-industry work.

"If pipes do not slice through wrecks, then gravel dredgers or beam trawlers will rip them apart," said Kingsley. "If nothing is done about this, we will be signing the death warrant for a large slice of our heritage."

Kingsley said the current procedure of preserving sunken wrecks on the seabed was no longer tenable. He highlighted the case of a recently discovered Channel wreck of a 16th-century trading vessel. However, it is suffering severe damage from trawlers and is breaking apart. Kingsley said companies should be allowed to sell gold coins and other items to pay for commercial salvage operations.

However, Dr Jon Adams, head of archaeology at Southampton University, said: "These fears being raised by Odyssey Marine are disingenuous. They are doing this primarily to make money. Consider the Mary Rose. It is housed in a £35m museum along with all artefacts found on board. I doubt if the country would possess such a wonderful record of its naval past if it had been excavated by commercial operators."

Ian Oxley, head of maritime archaeology for English Heritage, said: "We are working with sea fishery organisations and government departments to raise awareness of the importance of our submerged heritage."


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