Greenpeace granite shield protects unique marine life

Press release - 10 August, 2009
Greenpeace activists sailed into Swedish waters today and began placing up to 180 granite rocks (1), each weighing between 0.5 and 3 tonnes, on the seabed in order to prevent bottom trawling in areas listed for European Union protection.

The areas, Fladen and Lilla Middlegrund in the Kattegat, are listed by the Swedish Government as needing protection under Natura 2000 of the EU Habitat Directive because of their unique and rich sea life (2). Despite this, the Government is failing to protect them and bottom trawling (3), one of most destructive forms of fishing, is common throughout the area.

"The Swedish government needs to fulfil its commitment to protect the area and put a permanent ban on fishing in Fladen and Lilla Middelgrund," said Isadora Wronski, Greenpeace ocean campaigner.

"Throughout Europe, marine protection only exists on paper. Our seas cannot wait any longer, their survival is at stake and politicians need to take action and implement laws that will protect the life of the seas today and for the future," she stressed.

Most European countries have done little to protect the marine sites they have designated for conservation because under the EU Common Fisheries Policy they do not have the powers to regulate or prohibit fisheries. EU fisheries law states that such decisions have to be taken at an EU-level.

In 2008, Greenpeace placed 320 boulders in Germany's Sylt Outer Reef, another Natura 2000 site, which was being damaged by bottom trawling. Since the placing of the boulders trawlers have been prevented from fishing the reef. The boulders have already being colonised by a wealth of marine life.

For a long-term solution, Greenpeace is calling on the Swedish EU-presidency to reform the EU Common Fisheries Policy, enabling responsible authorities in member states to take necessary conservation measures in all types of marine protected area.

To stop over-fishing around the world, Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of large fully protected marine reserves covering 40 percent of our oceans, including the North and Baltic seas, to restore the health of fish stocks, and protect ocean life from habitat destruction and collapse. Marine reserves also make our oceans more resilient to the ravages of climate change.

Other contacts: Beth Herzfeld, Greenpeace International press officer, +44 7717 802 891 (in London)On location in Sweden: Staffan Danielsson, Greenpeace Nordic ocean campaigner, +46 70 353 65 85Isadora Wronski, Greenpeace Nordic ocean campaigner, +46 703 01 25 34Jan Isakson, Greenpeace Nordic project leader, +46 70 608 74 83

VVPR info: For photos contact Jiri Rezac on +44 20 7865 8230, email: For video contact Lucy Campbell-Jackson on +31 634 738 790, email

Notes: 1. The same types of stones are naturally occurring in both areas.2. Fladen and Lilla Middelgrund, which lie about 20 kilometres from Varberg port, off Sweden's southwest coast, are listed under Natura 2000, an ecological network of protected areas across the European Union aimed at protecting wildlife and their habitats. They are the only known sites where maerl beds (habitats made by free-living coralline algae) and bubble reefs (a special kind of habitat formed by lime deposits pushed up to the surface from methane and hydrogen sulphide deposits below) in Sweden. Both are vulnerable to bottom trawling. The areas are also important winter feeding grounds for a large numbers of seabirds. Large areas are covered with kelp forests teeming with marine life. Before the fish stocks of Kattegat collapsed – cod has decreased by 95 percent since 1995 - the areas were important feeding grounds for fish and a spawning ground for herring.3. Bottom trawling involves dragging a net with heavy chains along the seabed. It is one of the most destructive fishing methods - physically disturbing the seafloor and typically results in high levels of bycatch. For example, when fishing for sole and plaice, as much as 80 percent of the catch can be bycatch. This unwanted marine life is then thrown over board dead or dying.A media briefing is available at documents, including official responses from the authorities, maps, fact sheets, transcripts from public hearings from fishermen and other stakeholders, from throughout on the process involved in Greenpeace’s placing the trawler-fishing obstacles are available at Greenpeace project blog - then click In English for the translated versions of the documents.