Murky Waters: Greenpeace exposes the European countries responsible for deep-sea destruction

Press release - 3 March, 2006
European governments are turning a blind eye to the daily destruction of vulnerable deep-sea marine life by unregulated fishing vessels flying under European flags, according to a new Greenpeace report released today.

The fishing boat Santa Cristina, from Portugal, bottom trawls for Deep Sea Red Fish (Sabastes Marinus) at depths of 650 meters in the North Atlantic Ocean.

"Murky Waters: hauling in the net on Europe's high seas bottom trawlingfleet" documents the destructive activities of high seas bottomtrawlers observed fishing in the North Atlantic by Greenpeace in 2004and 2005.

Several of the vessels had been cited breaking the few rules that doexist in these fisheries, yet all continued to fish. All of the vesselsobserved were either owned by European nationals or fly the flags ofEuropean states.

High seas bottom trawling is recognised as the most destructive of allfishing methods. Using weighted nets, which are dragged across theocean floor to catch and crush everything in their path, the practiceleaves valuable marine habitats as wastelands and devastatesvulnerable, slow-growing deep-sea fish stocks.

According to the Greenpeace report, only a few hundred ships areresponsible for devastating huge areas of the world's oceans, with 60%of these vessels flagged to EU Member States, principally Spain,Denmark and France.

"European interests are fuelling what is recognized as one of thegreatest threats to marine life: unregulated high seas bottom trawling"said Greenpeace oceans campaigner, Sari Tolvanen, of Greenpeace. "Thereport shows that Europe is a leading deep-sea destroyer. This can andmust change.

European governments hold the key to the protection of deep-sea life:by supporting a United Nations moratorium on high seas bottom trawlingthese countries could ensure that these rich ecosystems are saved fromruin. The economic cost of a moratorium on high seas bottom trawlingwould be negligible compared to the protection provided to deep-sealife - which is priceless."

The Report coincides with the ministerial-level OECD Task Force meetingon high seas illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, whichis due to reveal how it plans to further discuss the problem of piratefishing.

Just last month, the 25 states that make up the European Union stood upat the United Nations and said that urgent action was needed to combattwo of the biggest threats to marine life: destructive deep-sea fishingand illegal fishing. "Words are fine, but action is better," said RemiParmentier of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, a consortium of morethan 50 NGOs worldwide set up to promote a UN high seas bottom trawlingmoratorium. "The EU must now put its money where its mouth is andimmediately announce that it will support the proposed United NationsGeneral Assembly moratorium on high seas bottom trawling."

"The unregulated bottom trawlers exposed in the Greenpeace Report arejust one facet of a broader picture of destruction spanning all of theworld's oceans. All of it leads back to the failure of governments toact effectively to regulate illegal fishing," said Tolvanen ofGreenpeace.

Earlier this week the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, set sail from CapeTown, South Africa as part of the year-long 'Defending Our OceansExpedition' to highlight the threats to the oceans and demand that 40%be declared no-take marine reserves, to safeguard marine life. Over thenext few months, in partnership with the Environmental JusticeFoundation, the Esperanza will expose how fishing pirates in theAtlantic are wiping out marine life and destroying the livelihoods ofthe communities dependent on our oceans for food.

The report is available on line at

Other contacts: Sari Tolvanen Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner +358 505 014 472 Remi Parmentier, Deep Sea Conservation Coalition +34 637 557 357

Notes: Greenpeace is a member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, an alliance of more than 50 international environmental and conservation organisations which are seeking a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.Greenpeace and the Environmental Justice Foundation are working together to expose the pirate fishing fleets that operate without sanction across the globe. Together the international environment and human rights organisations are demanding that governments close ports to ban pirates, deny them access to markets and prosecute companies supporting them.

Exp. contact date: 2006-03-13 00:00:00