Greenpeace are putting fishermen’s lives in danger with their reckless boulder dumps on MPAs and admit to the consequences of their actions
Greenpeace has promised to step up their campaign of dumping boulder in marine protected areas around the UK coast despite the Marine Management Organisation pleas.
Greenpeace announced that its ship Arctic Sunrise will be travelling to the South West Deeps MPA in the coming weeks. The MPA is located 200 miles off the Land’s End peninsula. This will make the third underwater barrier built by Greenpeace in UK waters, having previously dropped granite boulders on Dogger Bank in the North Sea and in the Offshore Brighton marine protected area.
After the boulder drop at Dogger Bank, the MMO took Greenpeace to court for environmental breaches, but the case was dropped in February this year after a judge at Newcastle Crown Court invited the MMO to reconsider, saying prosecution was not in the public interest. The MMO failed to produce evidence to show that the prosecution was in the public interest, and therefore Greenpeace was given full rights to carry on dangerous and destructive acts that would not be allowed on terra firma.
Judge Edward Bindloss remarked: “One of the ironies of this litigation is that both the MMO and Greenpeace are committed to improving the marine environment.”
He added: “The parties in this case should be allies, not antagonists. They should be acting in harmony given their stated purpose and objectives are the same.”
Something the MMO reiterated today in a statement saying, the “…MMO and Greenpeace have a shared interest in protecting our precious marine environment.”
On social media this afternoon, Greenpeace said that they were committed to causing a hazard at sea, saying:
These boulders only impact destructive bottom trawling in areas that are meant to be protected. We notify the maritime authorities the precise coordinates of each boulder so it’s easy to avoid them. The UK gov must ban all industrial fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas.
The MMO has responded by saying:
Greenpeace is aware that the MMO is delivering accelerated plans to introduce appropriate management protection measures within England’s offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) following new powers contained in the Fisheries Act 2020.
In June this year, the use of bottom towed gear was prohibited in four MPAs which protects a total area of over 13,000 km2. These first four MPAs were selected as a priority to preserve their vibrant and productive undersea ecosystems that provide an important food source for species such as kittiwakes, puffins and porpoises.
The MMO has since completed a call for evidence for a further 13 MPAs (from 14 May to 10 July 2022), to seek views on our draft assessment of the impacts of fishing activity on the designated features of this further set of MPAs. With plans in place to then move onto actions to consider the remaining MPAs to follow.
As part of our ongoing engagement, MMO had already met with Greenpeace and also invited Greenpeace to a stakeholder workshop this month with other environmental non-government organisations to discuss our offshore MPA work.
As such, we are surprised and disappointed by the announcement made by Greenpeace of their intention to undertake further unlawful activity within this specific MPA at South West Deeps (East).
In a previous action against Greenpeace, the court’s comments expected that Greenpeace will respect and comply with the marine licensing regime in line with all other marine users and stakeholders, and it was made clear that the MMO has jurisdiction to prosecute unlicensed and unlawful activity in the UK marine area.
An MMO spokesman said: “We are surprised and disappointed by the announcement made by Greenpeace of their intention to undertake further unlawful activity within the MPA at South West Deeps (East), particularly as MMO and Greenpeace have a shared interest in protecting our precious marine environment.
“In June this year, the MMO introduced the first of 40 byelaws preventing the use of bottom towed gear was prohibited in four MPAs which protects a total area of over 13,000 km2. These first four MPAs were selected as a priority to preserve their vibrant and productive undersea ecosystems.
“In a previous court action the court commented that Greenpeace must respect and comply with the marine licensing regime in line with all other marine users and stakeholders, and it was made clear that the MMO has jurisdiction to prosecute unlicensed and unlawful activity in the UK marine area.
“The MMO remains open to engagement with Greenpeace to ensure we can achieve our joint goal of managed and protected seas. However, should unlicensed activity be undertaken, the MMO will, as England’s Marine regulator, discharge our regulatory functions in line with our compliance and enforcement strategy.”
The actions of dropping boulders in MPAs has been widely criticised across the fishing industry. It is felt that Greenpeace is actively seeing to put people’s lives in danger if nets get snagged while fishing close to the area. Along as putting lives in danger, Greenpeace is also causing a marine environment disaster in MPAs, for example, the South West Deeps is a sandy seabed. By introducing boulders into the are it allows alien predatory fish species a new home to thrive around which will change the balance of fish life on the MPA. But there are also other issues.
Fisheries consultant, Terri Portmann who is based in Plymouth said of Greenpeace’s action, “These sandbanks are highly mobile, where Greenpeace plan to drop their boulders, they will not stay. If the Government is not fulfilling legal obligations to protect these marine protected areas, then go to court. Don’t put fishermen’s and others lives at risk.”