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Not-so protected areas: Fishing boats regularly ply waters of Europe's MPAs

When you picture a marine protected area, you might think of a diverse ecosystem where fish, sharks and corals thrive in a healthy, protected habitat. You probably don’t imagine industrial fishing operations scraping the depths of the ocean with large trawling nets.

But using data from Global Fishing Watch and the World Database of Protected Areas, we found that in 2016, the three most trawled marine protected areas (MPAs) in the world were in the European Union. Fishing vessels spent over 930,000 hours trawling MPAs off the coasts of the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain.

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