Greenpeace exposes 20 European fishing vessels responsible for destructive fishing

Press release - November 4, 2014
Brussels/Amsterdam – Greenpeace exposed today 20 of the most destructive fishing vessels operating under European flags, ownership or management [1], two months ahead of a European Union (EU) deadline to end overfishing [2]. All 20 vessels have been singled out because of their enormous capacity to catch fish and their impact on overexploited fish stocks, vulnerable marine species and habitats [3].

The German-flagged fishing vessel Helen Mary is involved in overfishing on a global scale, depleting stocks such as the Chilean jack mackerel in the South Pacific and pelagic stocks in West Africa. Large-scale vessels like this create little employment. The average catch per worker in 2008 was an estimated 614.2 tonnes, which is 5.2 times higher than the EU average.

The operations of all 20 vessels can be linked back to European countries: Denmark, France, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. Only one vessel is flagged outside the EU but operated by a Greek-registered company.

Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace EU oceans policy director said: “The operators of these vessels use tricks – like changing the identity and flag of their vessels or using front companies and tax havens – to increase their access to fishing opportunities or to circumvent rules and regulations. They create comparatively little employment, while putting in jeopardy the health of our seas. EU governments must stop turning a blind eye to overfishing, remove monster boats from industrial fishing fleets and encourage low-impact alternatives.”

By focusing on some of the top contributors to global overfishing, Greenpeace is challenging EU countries to take action and eliminate excess fishing capacity where it matters most. Europe should also give preferential access to fishing opportunities to traditional and low-impact fishermen, as required under the new EU Common Fisheries Policy [2].


Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace EU oceans policy director: +32 (0)2 274 1902,
Greenpeace press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911,

Pictures are available at Greenpeace photo desk website.

Notes to editors:

[1] Monster boats – the scourge of the oceans , Greenpeace report, 4 November 2014.

Visit the dedicated website.

[2] The rules governing fishing fleets in the EU have recently been reformed. The new rules require the EU to lower its fishing pressure by the start of next year (2015) to levels below the rate that will enable stocks to rebuild. Exceptional delays up until 2020 would need to be justified on the basis that meeting the 2015 deadline “would seriously jeopardise the social and economic sustainability of the fleets involved”. The new rules also specify that governments must promote responsible, low-impact fishing and put in place action plans to eliminate overcapacity where it exists. Fishing opportunities should preferentially be given to fishermen who fish in the least destructive way and who provide the greatest benefits for society.

[3] Greenpeace used a fixed list of criteria to identify the 20 vessels. These included four criteria related to the actual size and power of the vessel, namely:

a. a gross tonnage greater than 4,000, and/or

b. an engine power exceeding 5,000kW, and/or

c. a carrying capacity of 2,000 tonnes or more, and/or

d. a fish-holding capacity of 3,700 m³ or more.

Other criteria relate to their participation in fishing activities for overfished stocks, the destructiveness of their gear, the level of by-catch, their participation in distant water fisheries, particularly where there is information of adverse impacts on local fishermen and fishing communities, the use of flags of convenience, frequent flag changes and, where available, information about abuses of human rights and labour laws on board of vessels. Greenpeace also considered whether the vessels’ owners and operators show evidence of pursuing an aggressive expansion strategy by building new vessels while no adequate capacity management plans are in place for their target fisheries.


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Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.