Mounting evidence shows Danish sand dredging destroys cod and plaice habitat in the Sound

Press Release Date: June 22, 2016

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana, political parties and NGOs have repeatedly called on the Danish government to halt sand dredging in the Sound.

Sand dredging in the Sound causes serious damage to the ocean floor and marine life, in areas that are key for commercial species such as cod and plaice. These are among the main findings of reports presented yesterday at the Danish Nature Agency on the environmental effects of sand dredging in the region. Oceana is deeply concerned that, despite these known impacts, dredging continues to happen in the Danish waters of the Sound, and with only minimal regulation.

“It is truly baffling why the Danish government has allowed this destructive activity to continue for so long without any concern as to the extent of the damage done to the area,” stated Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe.

Sand dredging is a practice that uses heavy machinery to suction sand from the ocean floor. Once the sand is removed, it is mainly used for construction purposes. In the Sound, dredging is not permitted in Swedish waters, but is still routinely carried out in shallow Danish sandbanks that are vital feeding and nursery areas for various fish species.

“The physical and destructive uprooting of marine life in the Sound caused by dredging is, in many cases, irreversible. Pumping out industrial-sized volumes of sand from the ocean floor has major impacts – entire areas of these highly productive habitats are removed and the seabed is submerged further. Given the importance of these areas for commercially important fish such as cod and plaice, continuing to dredge also jeopardises the future of fisheries in the Sound,” added Gustavsson.

In April 2016, Oceana carried out an at-sea research expedition in the Sound, to document marine biodiversity and the human activities that threaten it, including sand dredging. Despite some claims that dredged areas recover naturally over time, this is contrary to the evidence from sites such as in Sweden’s Lomma Bay, which was last dredged over half a century ago and still shows no signs of any such ‘natural recovery’. Only limited research has  been carried out by the Danish authorities to assess dredging impacts, and these studies have neglected to consider long-term effects, or the impacts on species that live directly in the sand, and so are likely to be most directly affected.

Just last month, Oceana backed a proposal tabled by Danish opposition parties to prohibit dredging in the Sound. Oceana will continue to urge Denmark to follow Sweden in putting an end to this activity.