Skip to main content

Defra response to Greenpeace action in UK EEZ

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: marine

On 24 February 2021,  a vessel manned by Greenpeace, known as MV Esperanza, was observed dropping a number of boulders in the United Kingdom’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This activity is currently being investigated by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MACAA) requires that any vessel which deposits an object in the UK’s EEZ must have a marine licence from the MMO.

The MMO has stated it expects organisations with environmental protection aims to act within the rules designed to protect our marine environment.

To assist safe navigation for other vessels, the Marine Management Organisation has published details of the location of the boulders and set out details of its enforcement approach.

The UK Government is putting sustainable fishing and protection of our seas at the heart of its future fishing strategy. We have already set up a ‘Blue Belt’ of protected waters, and the Fisheries Act includes new powers to better manage and control our Marine Protected Areas.

In February, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) launched a consultation on proposals  to manage activity in four of England’s offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The Government is currently also considering the creation of Highly Protected Marine Areas to ensure the most sensitive marine habitats are protected against human activity.

A Defra spokesperson said:

The UK is a global leader in the fight to protect our seas, with our ‘Blue Belt’ of Marine Protected Areas extending across 38% of UK waters.

The Marine Management Organisation’s current proposals to introduce byelaws to safeguard four of our precious offshore Marine Protected Areas demonstrate our commitment to achieve a healthy, thriving and sustainable marine environment.

Everyone needs to act within the law. As there is a live investigation underway, we are unable to comment further on Greenpeace’s activities.

The Marine Management Organisation continues to monitor fishing activity in English waters including Marine Protected Areas – with dedicated enforcement and surveillance work to protect fisheries, including offshore patrol vessels for at-sea surveillance.

Follow Defra on Twitter, and sign up for email alerts here.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Mo Hutchison posted on

    Absolutely true

  2. Comment by Dave Stanley posted on

    Would the Marine Management Organisation like to explain why it has published the location of the boulders and for whose benefit?

  3. Comment by Lynne East posted on

    Please don't claim that MMO has collated the location data - Greenpeace volunteered it. You could have acknowledged that without losing the thread of your argument focusing on the legalities.

  4. Comment by David French posted on

    No one has the right to endanger lives.

  5. Comment by Ian Ogden posted on

    What actions have our protectors of marine enviroment taken to heavely dissuade seabed damage from occurring? Have they a record of recently impounding or banning certain boats and businesses from our waters after proving the unlawful actions?

  6. Comment by Ruth Griffiths posted on

    I am well behind Greenpeace .They are doing this in desperation !because the govt should NOT HAVE ALLOWED THIS CONTINUED DAMAGE TO OUR SEAS & marine life by foreign giant ships! Thats why we left the eu !It should have been made clear ,there will be no fishing in Marine Protected areas ,otherwise whats the point of them ! Reading the Pew Report ,the eu still have not addressed their overfishing!or bycatch .We are out of it but still complicit in this destruction .Well ,they wont be ravishing that area now ! DO NOT ATTACK GREENPEACE FOR TRYING TO SAVE OUR ENVIRONMENT !

  7. Comment by John Baxter posted on

    Glad to see someone doing something in the way protecting the designated marine parks from dredging for seafood.....a bit like protecting the Serengeti from big game hunters?.
    If you don’t want to snag nets whilst fishing in marine parks.....keep out. Or risk losing your fishing gear when the quick release safety release kicks in.
    Pity is that Greenpeace has to be proactive where our governments fail.

    • Replies to John Baxter>

      Comment by Ruth Griffiths posted on

      WELL SAID !They wouldnt be doing it if they werent aware of these precious areas being fished by these big foreign trawlers !

    • Replies to John Baxter>

      Comment by Mo Hutchison posted on

      Absolutely agree

  8. Comment by Michael Desmond Walters posted on

    I am sure that the actions of Greenpeace are of more benefit to the marine environment than anything this government claims to do.