United Kingdom

Environment: Greenpeace vows to continue dropping boulders onto Dogger Bank to stop harmful trawling

Greenpeace has vowed to continue dropping boulders into the North Sea — as to stop trawling of the Dogger Bank marine reserve — despite Government objection.

According to the environmental organisation, the Government has failed to provide adequate protection for the sandbank, home to crabs, starfish, flatfish and sand eels.

These marine creatures are food for seabirds — such as puffins — as well as for dolphins, porpoises and such fish as cod. 

Bottom trawling is a fishing practice in which heavy, weighted nets are dragged across the seabed to catch fish — but such is damaging the bank, activists said. 

Any bottom trawlers trying to fish over the regularly-spaced boulders will get their gear snagged and ruined on the dropped rocks. 

Greenpeace has been warned to stop building its barrier — which does not have a significant impact on the seabed — by the Marine Management Organisation.

They have already shielded some 50 square miles of the sea against trawling — using boulders signed by celebs including Stephen Fry and Hugh Fearnley–Whittingstall.

Greenpeace has vowed to continue dropping boulders into the North Sea — as to stop trawling of the Dogger Bank marine reserve — despite Government objection. Pictured, a boulder is released into the North Sea from the Greenpeace vessel MV Esperanza

Greenpeace campaigner Chris Thorne warned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's promise to protect 30 per cent of the UK's land and waters was 'meaningless' without the actual concrete plans to deliver on such a target.

'If our Government is not willing to commit to proper protection for the Dogger Bank and the rest of the UK’s Marine Protected Areas, we are forced to continue doing all that we can to prevent bottom trawling from destroying this vital marine habitat.'

'We can’t let bottom trawlers — which often operate illegally with their positioning systems off — continue to rip up the protected seabed while our Government does nothing,' Mr Thorne continued.

“We will not sit idly by while our oceans are destroyed.”

Dogger Bank's seabed is designated as a Special Area of Conservation — meaning there are restrictions on fishing in the area.

Environmentalists have accused the Government of failing to properly protect the area by not fully restricting damaging fishing activity — including bottom trawling.

An Environment Department spokesperson said that fishing and protection of the seas would be at the heart of the Government's future fishing strategy. 

Greenpeace said that it has found 11 large fishing vessels operating in the Dogger Bank marine protected area with their automatic identification system switched off. 

The environmental charity has thus taken matters into its own hands, using its vessel Esperanza to deploy inert granite boulders to create an underwater barrier.

Bottom trawling is a fishing practice in which heavy, weighted nets are dragged across the seabed to catch fish — but such is damaging the bank, activists said. Any bottom trawlers trying to fish over the regularly-spaced boulders will get their gear snagged on the rocks

 Greenpeace has been warned to stop building its barrier — which does not have a significant impact on the seabed — by the Marine Management Organisation. They have already shielded some 50 square miles of the sea against trawling, as depicted — using boulders signed by celebs including Stephen Fry and Hugh Fearnley–Whittingstall

The move closes 50 square miles of Dogger Bank from bottom trawling and Greenpeace says that it will continue to place boulders on the seabed until the UK Government properly protects the marine reserve.

Chris Thorne, a Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner, was on board the Esperanza during the boulder dropping activity, he said the Government had 'utterly failed to protect the Dogger Bank' from destructive industrial fishing. 

'How can you continue to allow bottom trawlers to plough the seabed in a protected area designed specifically to protect the seabed?' he asked.

'Allowing bottom trawling in a protected area established to protect the seabed is equivalent to allowing bulldozers to plough through a protected forest,' he added.

'Our Government won't act, and we can't sit idly by while they allow supposedly protected parts of our oceans to be destroyed.'

According to the environmental organisation, the Government has failed to provide adequate protection for the sandbank, home to crabs, starfish, flatfish and sand eels. These marine creatures are food for seabirds — such as puffins — as well as for dolphins, porpoises and such fish as cod. Pictured, a boulder is manoeuvred onto a slide on the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza

Greenpeace said that it has found 11 large fishing vessels operating in the Dogger Bank marine protected area with their automatic identification system switched off. The environmental charity has thus taken matters into its own hands, using its vessel Esperanza to deploy inert granite boulders, pictured, to create an underwater barrier 

Greenpeace said it had commissioned an independent scientific agency, BioLaGu, to conduct an environmental impact assessment that concluded placing the boulders, as pictured, would not have a significant impact on the protected feature of the Dogger Bank

Greenpeace said it had commissioned an independent scientific agency, BioLaGu, to conduct an environmental impact assessment that concluded placing the boulders would not have a significant impact on the protected feature of the Dogger Bank.

Activists say they have also informed the relevant marine authorities to ensure navigational safety for mariners in the area.

The Environment Department spokesperson said they had already set up a 'blue belt' of protected waters nearly twice the size of England.

'The Fisheries Bill proposes new powers to better manage and control our marine protected areas and English waters,' they said.

'The Common Fisheries Policy currently restricts our ability to implement tougher protections, but leaving the EU and taking back control of our waters as an independent coastal state means we can introduce stronger measures.'

MARINE PROTECTED AREAS RESTRICT DAMAGING ACTIVITIES IN THEIR BORDERS 

Marine Protected Areas were created to heavily restrict environmentally damaging activities, including certain types of fishing. 

The goal is to preserve marine habitats and wildlife at sea from overfishing or destructive practices that could risk wiping out species.

In the UK these areas create a chain of protection around the coast covering an area that is twice the size of England.

According to the Marine Conservation Society, MPAs are areas of sea that are set up to look after particular seascapes, habitats and species, just like nature reserves and national parks on land.

They help in the protection and recovery of rare and vulnerable wildlife, which would otherwise be threatened with extinction or serious decline.

MPAs also provide places for fish and other marine life to flourish, contributing to a more productive system both inside and outside of their boundaries.

There are 91 zones in waters around England alone and hte first were designated in 2013 - known as the UK Blue Belt. 

There are limits on how strict restrictions can be due to the UK being part of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

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