Halland fishermen and Greenpeace towards same goal

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Article in Yrkesfiskarna 3, 2009
www.yrkesfiskarna.se

During an open discussion meeting in Varberg where Greenpeace presented plans for placement of granite blocks as trawl obstacles on two shallow banks in Kattegatt, it appeared that there are no large disagreements among different interest groups. The question is concerning the two areas of Fladen and Lilla Middelgrund. Each of them have special natural values, and therefore have been designated as Natura 2000 areas.

When a Natura 2000 areas is submitted, and is accepted by the EU, a member state has 6 years to provide protection that would guarantee a “favorable protected status”. 5 years have now gone for Fladen and Lilla Midelgrunden, and nothing has been done – thus Greenpeace plans for action.

During an open meeting in Varberg, where commercial fishermen, anglers, county authorities and others were invited, Staffan Danielsson from Greenpeace presented the reasoning done by the environmental organization.

Wants to prevent damage
“Parts of Kattegat are among the most trawled areas in the world” stated Staffan Danielsson. “We want to prevent damage from bottom trawling, and we have submitted information of our intention to undertake protective measures in the form of trawling obstacles”.

Greenpeace intends in August/September to place around 300 untreated granite blocks, produced in Southern Norway and in Halland at depths of 25-30 meters on the two banks.

“These contain unique so called merle bottoms and bubble reefs, which we want to protect. It is our intention that the reef and the sand banks need to be protected.”

This may mean, according to Danielsson that fisheries will have limited access to the area, but this, he claims can be compensated economically via the Habitat Directive’s article 6.

“Measures must be put into place sooner or later; it is the responsibility of member states. If nothing is done, EU can take Sweden to court”, said Danielsson. “We hope to solve it together; we would think this would be terribly great!”

“Halland fishermen are a little special”, responded Viking Bengtsson, chairman of Division 9 of Swedish Commercial Fishermen’s Association, who spoke next.

“We have a whole region to deal with, we have to deal with the whole of Kattegatt, from which we provide first class fish for the whole Swedish people. Over the years, we have been speaking to the County government about how to use Kattegatt.”

Viking spoke about the policy program, that the Halland Fishermen adopted at the latest annual meeting which contains a clear desire for protection of off-shore banks.

New found allies
“Suddenly we find allies. But we think you are cowardly to not include also Stora Middelgrund and Röde Bank. They want to place 110 large wind mills, so there protection is truly needed!”

“We shall and we must protect the shallow banks and the refuges that exist there. Then perhaps we can even get the wolffish back”

If managed well, according to Viking Bangtsson, the banks could be excellent areas for basket fishing for lobster. Today there is a large scale Danish fishing with small mesh bottom set nets there.

“But this is a typical fishing area and fisheries there must be restructured. It is here, in Kattegatt, where the possibilities for big lobster and crab fisheries exist.”

“As far as trawling on the banks is concerned, this is something that has not been occurring for a long time,” Viking said. “From the fishermen’s side we want a total stop of both trawling and set nets on areas more shallow then 20 meters.”

“Among the anglers it is popular to fish on the wrecks and the 250 or so that are in Kattegatt are full of ghost nets that continue to fish. Our position is that there should be no west nets closer than 200 meters to the wrecks.”

Further Viking developed an idea for a research station in Halland that can map out and conduct a thorough inventory of Kattegatt.

Destroyed popular past time
The anglers also had a representative on the speaker’s list. Bo Hall, who has been an angler for 30 years, was hard against commercial fishermen and in principle blamed the whole decline on the corps.

“Today it is a real catastrophe, and the Swedish people were robbed of a popular past time”

Close certain areas, check where the fish’s favorite areas are, and close them, was Bo Hall’s recipe. In the following general discussion, commercial fisherman Ante Axelsson from Bua went up to the podium. He told that he was a fisherman in the 4h generation, and has been fishing for 50 years. He wanted to know where, exactly, Greenpeace planned to place stones.

No bottom trawling
“During all of my years I have never seen anyone bottom trawl on the reef. There is no fish there any way. You can put as many stones as you want on the reef, but not on the clean bottom around. We need that for our fishing! Just be careful, if a fisherman gets a stone like that in a trawl, it can be a serious accident…According to Viking Bangtsson the issue is to improve the refuges on the banks to improve the already existing refuges by placing stone blocks there.

“Noone is so stupid as too trawl among the stone blocks”

“Fisheries management has failed catastrophically” said Staffan danielsson. “This is why there are so few commercial fishermen left. It is a big political failure, and we should not pit different user groups against each other!”

“We have tried to get media to “bite” when we went out with our policy program, but it was deathly quiet, stated Viking Bengtsson. Now when Greenpeace came, it was actually like a gift from above. Even if we don’t have “stone throwing” on our program, well we can fix it if it’s necessary…It’s simply great!”

The meeting finished in a joint feeling of a need to continue and deepen cooperatiojn between Greenpeace and commercial fishermen.

“I believe,” said Staffan Danielsson,” that here is a historic opportunity for a joint understanding that is unique in a European perspective. Maybe even in the world…”

Article in Yrkesfiskarna 3, 2009
www.yrkesfiskarna.se

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