Greenpeace throwing stones to prevent trawling in German marine reserves

Greenpeace activists have once more been dumping large granite boulders into the sea in Germany in order to hamper fishing activity in protected areas.

The environmental activist group began dropping stones into the Adlergrund Marine Reserve, east of Rügen, an island in the German Baltic Sea, on Sunday, 26 July. The group’s aim is to drop around 200 boulders, which it claims will completely protected the area from bottom-trawling.

In 2008, Greenpeace dropped hundreds of metric tons of granite boulders on the sea floor in the German North Sea, in a bid to stop bottom-trawling in a designated Special Area of Conservation.

The group repeated the effort in early August 2009, when 40 large granite boulders were dropped into the Kattegatt, a stretch of water between Sweden and Denmark. This area is listed under Natura 2000, an ecological network of threatened habitats created by the European Union.

According to Greenpeace, the Adlergrund Marine Reserve contains valuable reefs and mussel beds, which provide a habitat for a variety marine life. However, the German government has not protected the area from fishing activity, which the group said is destroying the ecosystem.

"Our seas are being plundered, destroyed, and polluted for short-term profit, with drastic consequences for biodiversity and ultimately for all of us," said Thilo Maack, a marine biologist working with Greenpeace. Maack he called on German Federal Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Julia Klöckner to act more decisively and consistently, and ban fishing, oil exploitation, and sand and gravel mining in protected areas to preserve species and habitats.

Germany gave protected status to around half of its marine areas in 2007, but has shown a lack of political will to implement fishing bans in them, according to a recent report by Greenpeace on the state of the North and Baltic Seas.

The report outlines that stocks of cod and herring have been overexploited for decades in the German Baltic Sea, and that porpoises are at great risk there. For example, the population of around 450 harbor porpoises living east of the island of Bornholm is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Of particular concern to Greenpeace is an increase in the number of dead zones found in the Baltic Sea, where no marine life can survive.

“In the fight against the climate crisis and the extinction of species, healthy seas are among our most important allies,” Maack said. “Greenpeace has therefore started a tour of the North and Baltic Seas with the campaign ship Beluga II, to draw attention to our grievances about protected areas and to demand effective marine protection.”

Maack explained that intact protected areas act like a breathing space for the seas. 

“What serves the seas also serves the fishermen: fish stocks can recover and fishermen outside these areas will soon be catching more fish again,” he said.

Greenpeace has kept local authorities informed about its current action, stating that the stones pose no danger to shipping, and are only intended to be a nuisance to bottom-trawlers.

However, the German Fisheries Association has called Greenpeace’s actions “vigilante justice,” and has demanded the police step in to stop the organization from placing the boulders into what it claims is a legal fishing area.

“It is completely incomprehensible that Greenpeace, despite a clear ban and delivery of an injuniction, can continue,” the association said in a press release. “It raises the question how an organization can be classified as a nonprofit that is deliberately breaking the law andthen  can then pay the fine with tax-exempt donations. "

The fishing association said it will not be drawn into a fight with Grenpeace.

“Apparently they want to provoke the fishermen to defend their fishing areas and their professional existence itself, while the state does not. But the fishermen are not so stupid to deliver Greenpeace the desired pictures of a sea battle between it and [our] fishing trawlers,” it said. “The fishery hopes for the state enforcement of the law.”

Photo courtesy of Greenpeace


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