Oceana claims satellite data shows bottom trawling, with most intensely trawled sites in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Denmark

Oceana claims satellite data shows bottom trawling, with most intensely trawled sites in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Denmark

Satellite data shows extensive destructive fishing continues in EU waters

As the global nature conservation community gathers in Marseille for the IUCN World Conservation Congress, at which marine protection targets will be discussed, Oceana releases new data revealing how EU countries continue to allow destructive fishing in Europe’s supposedly ‘protected’ areas and calls on European leaders to ban the widespread  and destructive practice of bottom trawling. Oceana’s analysis found that over 2.5 million hours of bottom fishing occurred in 2020 inside areas designated to protect Europe’s most valuable and threatened marine species and habitats.

As country leaders proudly communicate their ocean protection efforts at international events, they often fail to mention the harmful fishing that is going on inside their marine ‘protected’ areas. We urge them to truly protect our marine environment by banning harmful activities, and in particular destructive fishing, from all marine protected areas” said Vera Coelho, Oceana’s Senior Director, Advocacy in Europe.

Oceana analysed satellite tracking-data of fishing boats, based on Global Fishing Watch, and focusing on European Natura 2000 sites. The analysis found that five German sites are within the top 10 most bottom-trawled sites in Europe, including the “Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park” with over 730,000 hours alone. The data reveals other intensely bottom-trawled sites including the French “Mers Celtiques – Talus du golfe de Gascogne” (117,574 hours), the Dutch “Noordzeekustzone” (117,683 hours) and ”Waddenzee” (110,451 hours), as well as the Danish “Skagens Gren og Skagerak” (49,092 hours).

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Oceana’s analysis showed that about 75% of the bottom fishing activity is carried out by beam-trawling, a particularly harmful fishing technique used to catch flat fish (such as sole or plaice), which consists of dragging heavy nets attached to a steel beam that holds the nets open on the seafloor.

2021 is a critical year for Nature and Ocean protection, as international discussions are taking place under the United Nations to adopt a new global framework to reverse biodiversity loss by mid-century. Negotiations are ongoing about a target to protect at least 30% of the planet (land and sea) by 2030, and leaders are expected to also discuss the issue at the IUCN Congress. An Oceana-led petition has already gathered almost 150,000 signatures urging the European Commission to act to ban bottom trawling in all EU MPAs in its upcoming Action Plan on the oceans expected in early 2022.

Top 10 most bottom-fished Natura 2000 sites in Europe (2020)

MPA name EU country Total 2020 bottom-fishing recorded in the MPA (hours)
Nationalpark Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer Germany 732 775
Wattenmeer und angrenzende Küstengebiete Germany 576 393
Sylter Außenriff Germany 318 582
Noordzeekustzone The Netherlands 117 683
Mers Celtiques – Talus du golfe de Gascogne France 117 574
Waddenzee The Netherlands 110 451
Doggerbank (German part) Germany 93 092
Skagens Gren og Skagerak Denmark 49 092
Steingrund Germany 41 832


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Over 2.5 million hours of bottom trawling ploughed Europe’s ‘protected’ areas in 2020

by editor time to read: 7 min