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Our response to Greenpeace's action at Dogger Bank

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There is coverage in The Times, Daily Telegraph, Yorkshire Post, The Herald and Channel 4 News (00:48) of the ongoing Greenpeace action at Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation (SAC), where yesterday Greenpeace announced that they have sunk granite boulders around the shallow waters of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) to stop bottom trawling vessels entering the area.

Greenpeace claim that they have observed bottom trawlers breaking the law by switching off their AIS (automatic tracking systems) while fishing in the Marine Protected Area. They suggest that the MPA is not properly protected and that they will continue to take action until the UK Government takes action to protect the site.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) tracks the movement of all fishing vessels over 12m in English waters, 24 hours a day, through satellite technology. It also deploys aerial surveillance, and coordinates intelligence from third party sources – detecting where and when illegal fishing is suspected.

While the MMO is unable to comment on specific allegations of offending it can confirm that action would always be taken where there was sufficient evidence to suggest any prohibited fishing activity was taking place within an Special Area of Conservation (SAC). It has also has confirmed that breaches of marine legislation are being investigated in regard to the laying of boulders in the Dogger Bank SAC.

A government spokesperson said:

We are committed to bolstering the health of our precious Marine Protected Areas, which is why we have already put in place a ‘Blue Belt’ of protected waters nearly twice the size of England and will go even further following the end of the Transition Period

We believe a tailored approach for each MPA will allow us to achieve our ambitious conservation aims, whilst allowing our vital fishing industry to thrive.

At present, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) makes it difficult to introduce measures in offshore Marine Protected Areas (such as Dogger Bank SAC) as they require the agreement of EU Member States. Our Fisheries Bill contains a new power enabling the MMO to implement and enforce management measures within our Marine Protected Areas and across English waters once we leave the CFP. The Bill will also prohibit any commercial fishing vessel (UK or foreign registered) from operating in UK waters without a licence.

It is also reported that the Executive Director of the Blue Marine Foundation, Charles Clover, has written to Fisheries Minister, Victoria Prentis, informing of the organisation’s intention to seek a judicial review unless the Government strengthen protection measures in Marine Protected areas from 1 January 2021.

We are prioritising the Marine Protected Areas most at risk and aim to make rapid progress with management measures as soon as the transition period ends.

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  1. Comment by Graham McLellan posted on

    Typical current Gov type blame shifting saying its all due to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) that they have not enforced protection.
    I have every confidence that once we are out of the EU the Government will handle this matter as well as they would handle a drinks party in a brewery.
    Well done Green Peace I am sure the fish do not find the Bolders a danger to health.
    Perhaps we could get the DEFRA minister our in a rowing boat on patrol post EU exit.

  2. Comment by David Harris posted on

    Well done Greenpeace, hopefully you will be able to continue the work in other areas. Unless the ships AIS system is turned off the authorities will know exactly who is fishing there but typically do nothing about it.
    I live on the south coast where we have a half mile "protected" area no trawl zone. Most days i see trawlers fishing no more than 100 metres off the beach, i have given up phoning the relevant authorities as no one is interested.

  3. Comment by Ant posted on

    I am just worried of the headache a bivalve will have when a ton of granite is lobbed on them

  4. Comment by Jim Portus posted on

    I believe that fishermen's lives are being put at risk by the recent actions of Greenpeace, whose vessel "Esperanza" has been directed to Dogger Bank to dump massive granite boulders in an effort to stop allegedly illegal bottom fishing within the Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
    The points I wish to make are that:
    1. there is no Regulation in place that restricts fishing activity on the Dogger Bank, so any such fishing has been lawful.
    2. allegations by Greenpeace of fishing skippers switching off AIS systems are a matter for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCGA) to investigate as potentially breaching maritime safety and shipping regulations.
    3. as far as I am aware the accused fishing skippers did not commit any offences when fishing in the Dogger Bank SAC. I am led to believe that VMS equipment required by fisheries legislation was switched on and was operable.

    What action is the Government taking to halt the illegal activity in British EEZ waters of the Captain of the Dutch Registered vessel "Esperanza"? The vessel is dumping massive granite boulders on the seabed of the Crown Estate in the area known as Dogger Bank?
    Such boulders constitute a danger to navigation and a risk to life at sea. I believe that the actions of the captain are a wilful act of reckless endangerment.
    There is no doubt that the intention of the boulders is to stop a trawler in its tracks, thus causing the vessel to lose control with the possibility of capsize.

  5. Comment by Andrew Berry posted on

    I have never known Defra take a useful, constructive, forward thinking or appropriate, action in their entire existence...
    Good work Greenpeace! Keep it up.
    Andy Berry.

  6. Comment by Dale Stephen Renac posted on

    DEFRA and the environment agency still allow water companies to dump their waste into our river systems which flow into the sea . Reported an incident to the environment agency and the couldn't be bothered to come out and investigate it and said the water company has sorted it out this happened on the river Ellen in Cumbria

  7. Comment by Richard Mathews FICE posted on

    Given that the MMO tracks all fishing vessels in UK waters over 12m length, there must be statistics available for the numbers of vessels crossing the Dogger Bank SAC and the proportions of those vessels suspected of fishing.
    Regular publication of such statistics in line with FoIA recommendations would provide the transparency needed to generate confidence in the effectiveness of the monitoring.

  8. Comment by Mr simon kibble posted on

    Judging by the way the worlds oceans it strikes me as apoor show if we cannot get our own coastal waters in order.
    Id like to say i think its a grear job greenpeace are doing and at there own cost .From funds donated by people like myself who want to save and pass on our world for the generations to come .
    As for looking into there action in breach of the designation .
    Well someone needs to get realistic and quickly.

  9. Comment by Dale Rodmell posted on

    A joint recomendation for fisheries mangement measures for the Dogger Bank SAC was submitted to the European Commission for confirmation last year on behalf of the UK, NL and DE governments. A group of environmental NGOs led by Client Earth raised a legal complaint which has likely stalled the implementation of that plan. Such circumstances give absolutely no justification for Greenpeace to behave recklessly with maritime safety by dumping rocks illegally.

  10. Comment by P Mark Cocker author posted on

    You should applaud Greenpeace for merely helping to protect marine communities from damaging and illegal exploitation. To prosecute Greenpeace for these actions before seeking truth about illegal fishing or prosecuting illegal fisheries for their action wd be a catastrophic own goal. Please do the right thing

  11. Comment by William Hughes-Games posted on

    Once a marine area has been declared a no-fishing reserve (a most necessary action if you truly want to restore your fisheries resource), the government itself should be deploying structures on the sea bottom that would wreck bottom trawls. This would be a most valuable passive method to augment the satellite monitoring of fishing activity. How about the deployment of those cement tetrapods that are used for wave protection. But make them 'holey' (with holes) so that they also provide added habitat for marine organisms. This can be done simply by inserting wood here and there during casting of the tetrapods. The teredos and limnoria will eat out the wood in a year or two leaving all sorts of nitches.

  12. Comment by Michael Heylin OBE posted on

    Oh typical, don't monitor the MPA sites, as was warned against during the consultation periods, don't do anything to protect them but prosecute or threaten to prosecute those who at least attempt to stop the further destruction of the habitat or what little is left of it. The Dogger Bank was the filter which kept the North Sea clean, swept clean of the bivalves which did the work by commercial trawling. Greenpeace may not have all the answers but at least it is trying to do the right thing.