Hello and welcome!

by

Dima Litvinov, Oceans Campaign

For the past ten years or so I have had the privilege of working with the Greenpeace Oceans campaign. The work has taken me to many parts of the world’s oceans – from the Baltic to the Pacific, from the Barents and Kara seas in the north to the Southern ocean; from small harbors in Argentina to large industrial European landing ports; from 100 meter super trawlers to 9 meter gill netters; from state-owned ships to rusty hulls with no flag and painted-over IMO numbers.

Over the years time and again I encountered a situation that seemed absurd, one that is not often encountered on dry land: a slow, complicated ineffective and often non-existent legislation for regulating human activities at sea. Not least have I seen this in the EU waters.

One often hears the opinion that EU’s waters are overregulated. I can almost agree with this. There is a great number of authorities who regulate different aspects of human activities in EU waters. At the same time it appears that the very plethora of regulators leads to UNDERREGULATION, a situation where important aspects fall between chairs, or are pushed from one table to another without any resolution.

I experience this underregulation – as a result in part of overregulation – in particular when it comes to protection of marine environment. No single EU body today has the possibility and responsibility to act to truly protect the marine ecosystems from negative human impact. Not least is this true if the negative impact is associated with fisheries.

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EU has a powerful tool for protection of environment – Natura 2000 CONCEPT. Member states can (and must) propose a representative network of ecologically important habitats that, after approval by the EU, are protected against negative impact of human activities. It is normally the responsibility of nature protection authorities to prepare and implement these. This works on land.’

When it comes to the sea, and more specifically to the protection of sensitive marine habitats from negative impact of fisheries, the system fails. National environmental authorities suddenly find that their hands are tied – they do not have the right to impose fishing bans. The only way to impose such a  fishing ban  formally, at least outside the 12-mile line, is via a decision of Agriculture and Fisheries Minister council – a very complicated and politically expensive path, which no national environmental protection authority is willing to follow.

The result is absurd – around EU coasts are a number of areas that scientists and authorities believe have high natural values that are threatened by fisheries. These areas are declared on paer to be protected areas. But the destructive activity – fishing – is not forbidden.

Can such a situation arise on dry land? Hardly. A nature reserve in a forest where clear cutting is allowed is hard to imagine.

For many years now Greenpeace (and many others of course) have worked to eliminate the absurdity of the European legislation. And during all of these years destructive fisheries on Natura 2000 areas have continued, while discussions in the corridors have drawn out in time. Last year we took a more active step in our work to protect the marine environment by physically protecting an area with a high biological value that the authorities have failed to protect legally.

We placed a number of fishing obstacles on the sea bottom on the Sylt outer reef, am extremely valuable part of the North Sea near the German coast. We succeeded to do what the governments have failed to deliver – stopping destructive fisheries in an area that the German government (with the EU blessing) state needs to be protected.

Today Greenpeace chooses to focus on 2 similar areas – Lilla Middelgrund and Fladen in Kattegatt. Both of these areas are designated Natura 2000 areas. In both areas bottom fisheries have been identified as a threat against natural values. In neither of these areas has a ban on such fisheries been instituted. What we would like to see is action from the Swedish government to eliminate the problem:

–the best would naturally be a much more streamlined legislation where environmental authorities in individual member states have the ability to forbid all damaging activities (including fisheries) that may damage a designated Natura 2000 area. Sweden should work towards this goal within the EU, especially during the upcoming period of holding EU presidency.

–Until such a regulation is in place, the existing rules of the game must be used, even if they are difficult, complicated and politically uncomfortable – Which means that in each individual case where a fishing ban is needed Sweden works via the Commission and the Council to implement  a fishing ban.

–But the Swedish government should also look for other, more innovative solutions. The authorities can take same measures that Greenpeace carried out on Sylt – place trawling obstacles in and around areas that are threatened by such fisheries.

While awaiting the implementation of such protection we plan to carry out same activities that we did on Sylt last year – placing on the sea bottom in order to protect Fladen and Lilla Middelgrund.

It is a large scale project that we propose to carry out. In order to optimize the results we intend to carry out a through environmental impact assessment where we will solicit input from as many parties with relevant knowledge as possible, even if we are not legally bound to ask for a permission or to carry out such an environmental impact assessment.

We see this web site as an important tool in the EIA process – it is her that we will publish all the comments and the discussion that we hope to elicit by our proposal. We will send the EIAs to a number of individuals and institutions whose opinions we are particularly keen to receive. However all are welcome to submit comments, either in the format of short blog comments or by becoming an official “reviewer”.

In addition to this forum the EIA will be based on at least one open hearing. We will also continuously look for more information in research reports, authorities’ archives and out at sea in order to make the final project as perfect as possible.

We hope to have a lively discussion.  Thank you for participating!  And yet again – welcome!

Dima Litvinov

Oceans Campaign

Greenpeace

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16 Responses to “Hello and welcome!”

  1. Angler Says:

    This solution is totally necessary to prevent trawl-fishing in the vulnerable areas in Kattegatt. The sea doesn’t wait for politicians and the fishermen fish as if the bank had canceled their loans.

    Begin with trawling obstacles and marine reserves in Kattegatt as soon as possible!
    Translated from the Swedish blog

  2. Jonatan Hammar Says:

    Finally something is happening. I hope that the government compose themselves and throws out their own trawling obstacles in between you.

    I’m quite sure that people think that this is the best possible solution, even though people in political circles stay silent about it. I strongly doubt that anybody outside the tough-fisherman circle could have something to object to this tested method, which has proven positive results in many areas around the world.
    I also would like to point out that many fishermen I’ve been talking to already cheer for this concervational method, and they consider that it will benefit all the fishermen.
    Translated from the Swedish blog

  3. Stefan Olofsson Says:

    I can only tip my hat to Greenpeace!
    Keep on going with what you are doing. It benefits everybody at the end, and when our paralyzed politicians don’t dare to, it is a pleasure that you do!
    Translated from the Swedish blog

  4. Mikael Says:

    So wonderful that you dare to do something that really serves a cause, when the politicians are too scared to confront fishermen and their lobbyists. I really hope that this can be carried out for preserving some of our more valuable sea areas around the Swedish coast. Thanks in advance!
    Translated from the Swedish blog

  5. Klas Gustavsson Says:

    Thanks for this commendable initiative
    Translated from the Swedish blog

  6. Jan Arvidsson Says:

    You don’t see any problem with Greenpeace taking the law in its own hands since the politicians don’t do what Greenpeace want?

    Why not let the fishermen manage these areas? It’s completely naive to believe that the fishing industry would go bankrupting itself by fishing the sea empty.
    Translated from the Swedish blog

    • Mikael Says:

      What Greenpeace are about to do is not only what they want to do themselves. Most likely it’s what the majority of people who care for the ocean want. As most people have already realized, the fishermen can’t manage to administrate the seas themselves.

      It’s about earning as much money as possible nowadays. Sadly, many fishermen are just naive and when skippers on the west coast trawlers comment and say that “the ocean is here to be worn out as a sweater” is not hard to realize how well our waters are going to be managed by them.
      Translated from the Swedish blog

    • Ann Nilsson Says:

      Unfortunately experiences from the past have shown that the kind of solutions that are being proposed –to leave the management of the areas up to the fishermen – does not secures conservation of specially defense-worth areas at all. The suggestion that Greenpeace presents seems to be effective for its propose –to protect the ecosystem-, and an expense-effective solution. Even an EIA has even been performed. Quite cute.
      Translated from the Swedish blog

  7. Pierre Ringborg Says:

    As a so called “responsible politician”, this matter regarding marine reserves in the current area was driven hard by us, politicians in Varberg, who controlled Varberg’s municipality during 1994-98.
    I welcome the fact that Greenpeace now wants to take drastic measures to raise awareness of the question again, I’ll come to your info meeting the 12th Mars at Folkets Hus in Varberg. Greenpeace is needed!
    Translated from the Swedish blog

  8. Marcus Says:

    This is an OK solution, but there’s actually a much better alternative. Build wind power parks in the area of interest. This complicates harmful fishing, gives good protected areas for small fish and gives us environmentally friendly electricity. Unfortunately, Greenpeace has surely not the resources needed for this.
    Translated from the Swedish blog

  9. Örjan Says:

    Good, keep on going! We are extremely few fishermen left now after all the new restrictions from the last years. I’m actually quite tired of the whole thing. I have believed in my stupidity that it’s possible to carry on a long-term sustainable fishery, but now I’m starting to doubt. Fish should apparently be cultivated Norwegian salmon. That’s why we have ended in a collision course. What both parties wants is that there will be fish in the future.
    Best Regards,
    Örjan Carlson “NC 330 Kristin” Cuxhaven
    Translated from the Swedish blog

  10. Enlevandefjord Says:

    Indeed we need to protect our fragile ocean environment! I’m following this project with big interest.
    Translated from the Swedish blog

  11. Ingela Says:

    Go Greenpeace! I support this project 100%!

  12. Joakim Says:

    Good, very good. Marine reserves and restraints for destructive fishing is the solution in order to save our endangered sea. I am really happy about Greenpeace’s great initiative!

  13. Monica Says:

    I would like to give praise to all of you who are working with this, on all levels.

  14. How to Get Six Pack Fast Says:

    I read your posts for quite a long time and should tell that your posts are always valuable to readers.

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