The fishing industry seems determined to catch every last fish in the North Sea. The governments of the region and the EU have done little to stop them, but they may soon hit a few snags: a team from Greenpeace Germany and Greenpeace Netherlands has sailed into the German North Sea and begun placing 150 granite rocks on the seabed. They are hoping that the rocks, each weighing 2-3 tonnes and measuring one square cubic metre, will prevent fishing boats from bottom trawling on the Sylt Outer Reef. This highly destructive fishing method involves a net being dragged across the seabed indiscriminately catching everything in its path.
Bottom-trawling boats drag fishing gear weighing several tonnes across the sea bed, destroying fragile underwater ecosystems and decimating fish stocks.
Bottom trawling not only decimates stocks of popular fish, such
as sole and plaice, but it also results in a large amount of
bycatch - which is thrown back into the sea either dead or
Greenpeace Netherlands and Greenpeace Germany are taking direct
action to protect the fragile rocky reef and sandbank habitats and
the many species that are dependent on them. The German Government
and fishing industry are unwilling to address the ongoing
destruction of vulnerable marine habitats and the imminent collapse
of North Sea fish stocks. We hope that fishermen will now steer
clear of the Sylt Outer Reef and respect it as a marine
Globally, fish stocks are in free fall with around 90 percent of
predatory species, like tuna, having been wiped out since the
1950s. If we carry on with business as usual, very soon there will
be no fish left and no future for the industry. Only in June,
scientists warned that cod stocks in the North Sea are so depleted
that fishing must be halted altogether.
Incredibly, these warnings have been ignored. Rather than
establishing a marine reserve to allow the North Sea to recover,
European Ministers continue to bury their heads in the sand and
vote to increase catch quotas year after year.
Even in areas recognised for their high ecological importance,
such as the Sylt Outer Reef, the destruction continues. Not only is
fishing allowed, but also industry extracts vast quantities of sand
and gravel, with devastating consequences for marine habitats.
On paper these types of activity shouldn't be happening. The
Sylt Outer Reef is protected under European law - designated as a
'Special Area of Conservation' under the EU Habitats Directive. But
in reality this protection is worth little more than the paper it
is written on.
We are demanding that the German government push the European
Commission to put in place new measures to enforce a ban on fishing
in the area by the beginning of next year at the latest. We also
want the Dutch, Danish and UK governments to support this.
And we want the German government to immediately put a stop to
the industrial extraction of sand and gravel in the area by
ensuring no new licences are issued.
Ultimately, governments need to establish a global network of
fully protected marine reserves covering 40 percent of the world's
oceans, including the North Sea.
Join the call for a global network of marine reserves.
In order to preserve our independence we don't accept money from governments or corporations. This means that we rely on people like you to keep our ships afloat. Please give what you can.