Earlier this month, we were flabbergasted by news of the Danish government’s decision to renew permits for mussel dredging inside marine protected areas in their waters, which stands in stark contrast to the country’s conservation objectives.
Hanna Paulomaki, Baltic Sea project manager and marine scientist at Oceana provided a statement on the bizarre decision: “It is inconceivable that Denmark has once again granted licenses destroy the seafloor inside a marine protected area. MPAs have a function, which is to protect the nature and biodiversity contained within them. How exactly does the Danish government plan to enforce protection if they are the ones allowing its destruction?”
Dredging is a destructive fishing method, that consists of dragging a blade holding a mesh net across the seafloor, tearing up most in its path, including habitats that take years, if not decades to rebuild. The marine protected area which Denmark has granted dredging access to is part of the Natura 2000 network[AP1] – which was established to protect Europe’s best marine and terrestrial assets under the EU’s Habitat Directive.
Blue mussel beds are not protected by this directive, but they grow on reefs, which are. Blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) ecosystems are important because many other species, including barnacles, tube worms, sponges, crabs, and even birds find shelter and food there.
Marine protected areas should be more than just names and dots on a map – they are a crucial element to restoring Europe’s oceans and rebuilding fish stocks, especially in the Baltic Sea which suffers from so many outside threats.