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Soundings Archive

Greenpeace Sues UK over Bycatch

By far the greatest threat to cetaceans is ‘bycatch'- where they are accidentally caught in fishing nets and drowned. --Greenpeace

Greenpeace has sued the UK in British court to force more extensive UK regulation over bycatch. In Greenpeace's own words:
    " We are taking the government to the High Court over its failure to prevent the deaths of thousands of dolphins every year.

    We have launched a judicial review of the decision by fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw to ban pair trawling - a fishing method known to kill dolphins - in only a small part of the UK sea bass fishery, up to 12 miles from the UK coast. This decision, announced last year, was taken despite advice from conservation groups and government-funded scientists that this ban would be ineffective and could lead to an increase in dolphin deaths by moving the fishermen into the very areas where dolphins are most numerous."
This criticism of Mr. Bradshaw is somewhat ironic. The EU has agreed to review marine mammal bycatch in 2005, rather than waiting until 2007 or 2008. The accelerated review is in direct response to Mr. Bradshaw's request for early review. He made the request at a March meeting of the EU Council of Ministers in Brussels.

Greenpeace and other NGOs are dissatisfied with the EU's progress on bycatch. In February 2004, the European Parliament consented to a draft regulation aimed at bycatch. The draft rule banned driftnets in the Baltic Sea; and increased the use of acoustic pingers and observers aboard fishing vessels in EU waters. The draft rule follows and would implement a proposal submitted by the EU Commission in July 2003 to reduce bycatch. The EU country fisheries ministers are reviewing the draft regulation. Some NGOs contend that the fisheries ministers are merely stalling during their review and are trying to find ways to dilute the bycatch restrictions.

Numerous European NGOs are actively working against bycatch. For example, Friends of the Irish Environment ("FOIE") features on their website a bycatch report to the European Commission by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea ("ICES"). The ICES frequently provides scientific advice to the EU and its member countries. The FOIE summarizes the ICES report as follows:
    "In a recent report (ICES, 2002a) to the European Commission, scientists from ICES have proposed measures for reducing the number of small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises) that are incidentally caught in fishing nets. The proposals include making acoustic alarms on nets -- so-called "pingers" -- compulsory on certain fisheries, increasing the number of observers on fishing boats and reducing overall fishing effort."
Based on current developments, EU regulation of bycatch is still 'under construction.'
  • Click here to read source of Greenpeace quote under title
  • Click here to read more about Greenpeace bycatch litigation
  • Click here to read FOIE website discussing ICES report
  • Click here to read ICES bycatch report (scroll to page 3 of report, page 9 on your computer clicker)
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