A Danish court has acquitted an activist and Greenpeace Nordic of trespassing on five Danish fishing vessels, even though the hearing started both actually admitting to trespassing. The court found - just like we did - that the reason for trespassing was fully justified.
The case began back in January 2009, when an area of the Kattegat - a body of water between Denmark and Sweden - was declared closed for fishing. The area was protected because scientists identified it as the primary spawning ground for the threatened Kattegat cod
. In the past, the Kattegat cod spawned many places in Kattegat, but now the cod is almost gone due to overfishing.
This overfishing is not "just" bad for the cod; it has altered the entire ecosystem
. The collapse of the cod has caused more and bigger algal blooms along the west coast of Sweden, further adding to the decline of cod, since these areas used to be nursing area for small cod. The ecosystem has entered a vicious circle.
Following sustained rumors and local concerns that fishermen were apparently not complying with the closure, and that the fisheries authorities also apparently did not have the tools to stop them, Greenpeace decided to act. Using different surveillance systems we confirmed the rumors, but had no evidence that would stand in court. So in March 2010, Greenpeace activists went to the harbor of Gilleleje, climbed onboard a fishing vessel and placed a GPS-tracker way up in the mast - where it could stay hidden.
Shortly afterwards, this one vessel resumed fishing in the protected area, again and again. Our method of investigation was working, so we placed trackers on another four boats. In August the main TV news could reveal the substantial and systematic illegal fishing in the protected area documented by Greenpeace. The action led to charges raised against the fishermen, fines and confiscating of value of illegal catches, more control, higher punishment and according to scientist eventually a stop for the illegal fishing in the area
The result was the court took all of this under consideration, and decided to declare Greenpeace Nordic and my colleague not guilty of trespassing. It is an important victory for the right of NGOs to investigate and expose environmental wrongdoing There is a core principle every time Greenpeace takes action, yes, we may go to the edge of the law, but only when it is necessary to stop something that is much, much worse. When activists from Greenpeace went onboard the fishing vessels it was to prevent illegal fishing, and to protect a species from disappearing from our waters. The aftermath of the action proved that the activists were right in their assumption of illegal fishing and did manage to stop it; so according the Danish court that was a valid reason to trespass.
Here is a video portrait of one of the many activists involved in investigating and disposing the illegal fishing. Some of it is filmed in the harbor and she explains how the placement of the GPS trackers took place.