Denmark’s proposal for protecting vulnerable marine habitats lacks ambition
Press Release Date: April 14, 2015
The government’s proposal is intended to protect specific soft-bottom habitats in the Kattegat, of which some are red-listed. In a joint statement, the four conservation organisations stress that larger areas of seabed should be protected than the government suggests. The organisations also argue that all Kattegat fisheries should only operate with environmentally-friendly equipment.
“The government’s proposal is simply not enough to address many years of destruction of the Kattegat. Although it is positive that the government is finally taking steps towards protecting marine habitats, there is need for a much more ambitious protection of marine biodiversity”, says Mette Blæsbjerg of WWF.
“The proposal by the government protects only relatively small areas from bottom trawling. Bottom trawling is the single greatest threat to soft bottom habitats in the Kattegat today. Bottom trawling disturbs the seabed and its wildlife, and takes a very long time to recover after”, says Christina Abel, Oceana.
The governmental environmental body, The Danish Nature Agency, has themselves identified bottom trawling as one of the main reasons why Danish waters lack “Good Environmental Status” accordance with EU environmental legislation. Norway lobster continues to be fished using trawl, not only damaging the seabed by also resulting in significant by-catch and discards of the endangered Kattegat cod, where up to 68% of the cod caught is discarded.
The Danish government proposes that bottom trawling, mining and quarrying, and dumping of harbour sludge should be banned in the six proposed areas. However, mining and dumping do not in fact occur in several of the areas and there is no bottom trawling in two-third of the proposed areas. Therefore the proposed management plan, in reality, offers little real positive change in protection. The plan also fails to protect several highly important and unique areas.
“It is as if the Danish government believes we can get restore the poor status of the marine environment in Kattegat by making minor adjustments to fisheries. This proposal will not bring the Kattegat significantly closer towards achieving Good Environmental Status, which according to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive includes ensuring the integrity of the seabed and restoring commercial stocks”, says Magnus Eckeskog from Greenpeace.
“Larger areas must be protected, including taking into account more vulnerable species and specific places vitally important for biodiversity. The proposal by the government unfortunately omits several key areas, such as sites in the Southern Kattegat and the Sound. Also, little is actually known of some of the proposed areas. The proposal is simply not good enough”, says Henning Mørk Jørgensen from the Danish Society for Nature Conservation.
The four conservation organisations appeal to Denmark to protect larger marine areas and establish a proper management strategy in the Kattegat. The recommendations include a network of fully managed marine protected areas and to require Kattegat fisheries to use more environmentally-friendly equipment.
The Danish Ministers of Environment, Kirsten Brosbøl, and of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Dan Jørgensen, are called to an open consultation in parliament on Thursday 16th April, where they will be questioned about the proposal of new marine protected areas in the Kattegat.
Read the four conservation organisations’ statement here