Greenpeace drops boulders into sea to block ‘destructive fishing’

Greenpeace has dropped boulders in a protected part of the sea to block bottom trawling and industrial fishing.

Environmental organisation Greenpeace has built a “boulder barrier” underwater 30 miles off the Sussex coast in an effort to stop destructive fishing in the protected part of the ocean.

From Greenpeace’s ship, called Esperanza, activists placed granite boulders across 55 square miles of seabed in the Offshore Brighton Marine Protected Area. The barrier was completed on Thursday, and the NGO says it’s trying to expose the UK government’s failure to look after the Marine Protected Areas around the country.

Greenpeace states that destructive industrial fishing ships spent 3,099 hours trawling in the area in 2019, and these boulders will deter them from fishing in that area, since they risk damaging the fishing gear if it comes into contact with the rocks. It immediately let the Marine and Coastguard Agency know the precise location of the boulders so other ships can safely navigate the area.

The protected area was set up by the British government in 2016. The hermit crabs, scallops, starfish, sponges, sea worms and anemones that live on the seabed are vital sources of food for predators like porpoises and dolphins. Many other creatures frequent this part of the English Channel including, seals, cod, pollock, haddock, dogfish and seabirds.

Bottom trawling involves dragging heavy fishing gear along the seabed. Massive fishing nets and the beams holding them in place disturb the bed and catch marine animals in the way.

Greenpeace says it isn’t against all forms of fishing. It condemns industrial fishing, which the organisation says involves enormous ships and aims to get as many of the same few species out of the ocean as possible in one go.

The boulders have been marked with non-toxic paint with the names of Greenpeace supporters, which include donors and celebrities like Thandie Newton, Paloma Faith and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This is the second time Greenpeace has placed boulders in the sea, following its barrier creation at Dogger Bank in the North Sea last year.

The environmental NGO has received backlash from the fishing community, which describes its actions as dangerous and irresponsible. “What they’re doing is illegal,” Barrie Deas from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations told the BBC. “If you’re trawling and you catch a large boulder like that, there is a risk of overturning the vessel and losing the whole crew.”

Read our story on wildlife protection at the Strait of Gibraltar.

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