The Fishermen in Halland are positive to placement of stones

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Stop bottom trawling in the sensitive seabeds of Fladen and Lilla Middelgrund through placement of stones?

“Damn good idea” according to the anglers. “No problem, unless our lobster trawling in the outskirts of the area is disturbed” says the fishermen in Halland. “We haven’t made any decision about permission yet, but the notification has been sent for comment” the local authorities announced.

The majority of the 30 visitors at Greenpeaces’s information meeting the 12th of March in Varberg wanted more and more powerful measures to protect the valuable areas in Kattegatt and particularly the reproduction areas. Staffan Danielsson, was overwhelmed by the fishermen in Halland´s positive reactions after the meeting.

“We now have a constructive dialogue with the fishermen in the region, which is amazingly positive. The question regarding areas closed to fishing – with or without trawling obstacles – is usually very infected, but here we’ve managed to meet on a common ground. This is unique situation regarding the context” he says.

The fishermen in Halland admittedly thought that the placement of stones is “unnecessary”, since they’re not trawling at the ground hard bottoms with the greatest biological value within the Nature 2000 areas, but neither were they opposed to the placement.

“We’ve prepared an action plan of our own, for how important areas in Kattegatt can be protected, but the response from the authorities have been zero so far. The media haven’t bothered to cover our proposals. The really positive thing about Greenpeace’s project is that these issues now are raised on the agenda”, says Viking Bengtsson, Chairman in the Halland district of the Swedish Fishermen National Organisation.

Among the proposed measures from the fishermen in Halland is closure of the cod fishery in the whole southern parts of Kattegatt during the reproductive season. They also want to forbid all trawl- and gillnet fishery at the Kattegatt outer sea banks shallower than 20 meters including Fladen and Lilla Middelgrund as well as around wrecks in the area. Today there is intensive fishing on and near these wrecks, since they attract the fish that still remains in the area. Unfortunately the intensive fishing on the wrecks has led to the fact that many nets have become stuck on them and sank. Nets that today are catching and killing fish without any benefit to anyone. So-called ghost nets.

The Halland County administration stated that it is unclear whether it is legally possible to protect Fladen and Lilla Middelgrund from fisheries. “Marine environment is protected by the County administration, while fishing is regulated by the Fisheries authority. We have raised this issue with the Nature Protection agency” Said Bo Gustaffsson, marine biologist from the County administration. He also spoke about the mapping of marine environment under way in Halland.

Currently the County administration is reviewing Greenpeace notification of intentions for placement of stones. The notification and the environmental impact assessments have been sent out for comment to Maritime Safety Inspectorate, Nature Protection Agency and the Fisheries Authority. The deadline for the comments is end of March. After that a relatively quick decision is expected on whether a  permission is necessary for carrying out the proposed measures.

Sports fishermen were very positive towards the project. Bo Hall, author and sports fishermen spoke about how he watched fish population in Kattegatt  degrade step by step over the past decades. “In the beginning of 1970s it was still possible to catch fish everywhere. Predators, such as cod, ling, saith were close to land, and all the way out to the off-shore banks.  We would go out with small boats. Today sports fishermen have big boats and top modern equipment to find the fish. But often it doesn’t help.”

“It is a catstrophe. Today the stocks are one tenth of what we had in the beginning of 1970’s.”

Bo Hall pointed to the enormous economic potential that organized sports fishing and well managed fish stocks represent. In Norway, for example, there are at least 300 sports fishing camps that attract tourists from the whole world. In Sweden there is not a single sea fishing camp.

“We, Swedes go to Norway and spend money there instead. A fishing camp will have a turnover of between 15 and 20 million kronor per year, which shows the potential” said Bo Hall.

Already today the Swedish sports fisheries have a turnover of 4 billion kronor. With a network of marine reserves to protect the fish stocks – and make sports fishing attractive in or near the reserves – would create, according to the sports fishermen, a multi-billion income for the businesses in coastal areas of Sweden.

Jan Isakson

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