DREDGING should be scaled back after Brexit to save the “weakening” fishing industry, it has been claimed.

Sir Davis Amess, Tory MP for Southend West, spoke out in the House of Commons about his concerns after meeting with Leigh fishermen.

While marine conservation zones in some areas of the Thames, set up to protect underwater wildlife, ban fishing – companies are often given permission to dredge for sand and gravel.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir David said: “We are leaving the European Union. My goodness, it has taken nine months actually to start the process, but now that we have done so, local fishermen Daryl Godbold and Paul Gilson have drawn to my attention the fact that marine conservation zones prohibit fishing in 20 per cent of UK waters, but allow dredging for sand and gravel.

“That is weakening the British fishing industry, as Thames estuary fish stock levels are at a bare minimum due to dredging.

“Crabbing is popular in our area and apparently there is a shortage of local crabs.

“I hope that we will get on with addressing that issue quickly.”

Fisherman Paul Gilson, 63, of Undercliff Gardens, Leigh, said that the fishing industry had been hit massively. He has called for change when Britain leaves the EU.

He said: “It is called hypocrisy. It is a way for Europe to use a green umbrella to get rid of fisheries. They are laying cables and creating wind farms which are taking the seabeds away. It is only the fisherman getting hit.

“There is a small reef on the south coast which is a breeding ground for seabream. The fish build a nest and are left alone by the fishing industry. It is something very special and we can’t go near it, but a dredging company have just applied for permission to dredge half a mile away and they will probably get it.

“It feels like the marine conservation zones are targeting the fishing industry. The levels of crabs have also crashed. The ones that kids catch or are used as bait - there are almost none available. There has been a huge drop because of dredging. There are environmental problems that need addressing.”