The UK Marine Management Organization (MMO) was told by Greenpeace earlier this week that it intends to collect more rocks and dump them in the sea at South West Deeps off England in what he calls for a peaceful protest to prevent “destructive bottom trawling.”
The MMO said it was “extremely disappointed” that Greenpeace intended to continue its actions, which would mean further rock falls in marine space without the required marine licenses.
“Greenpeace is aware of the work undertaken by MMO to protect these sites and the process that must be followed, and Greenpeace has had no doubt from the judicial comments in the previous legal proceeding that it is expected to comply with the maritime licenses,” the agency said via an official statement posted on its website.
The MMO added that it will continue to monitor and investigate as needed.
The MMO said that since the start of the program it has already put in place a series of management measures at four offshore sites, including Dogger Bank SAC, which at 12,331 square kilometers is the largest marine protected area (MPA ) of England protecting seabed habitat.
The MMO also recently published a call for evidence and solicited feedback on its plans to assess the impacts of towed fishing gear at 13 other MPAs to identify appropriate long-term site protection.
“As England’s maritime regulator,” the MMO said, “we are very disappointed that Greenpeace has chosen to take this action to bring down rocks to form a barrier, as we do not believe it is justified or that it will help protect our marine environment.
“It is also a requirement under the Marine and Coastal Access Act that any construction depot under high water must have a marine licence. Greenpeace does not have it and has not requested it and as such the group’s activity is potentially illegal.
The MMO said it had launched a formal investigation in accordance with its regulatory function regarding maritime licensing enforcement and was gathering evidence before considering its next response.
South West Deeps (East) is a large offshore Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) covering an area of 4,676 square kilometres. It is located in the Western English Channel and the Celtic Sea where its closest point to land is 190 kilometers south-west of Cornwall.
The water depth reaches 750 meters in some places and the area is home to a wide variety of important species, including flatfish such as sole and plaice on the surface of the seabed, as well as species of clams, cockles and marine worms. The site also provides habitats and prey species for a range of commercial fish species, as well as birds and marine mammals.
The location is part of a third round of work by the MMO to manage fisheries in high seas MPAs, and the MMO is currently collecting and analyzing evidence to inform its management decisions for this site. Any management proposal for this site will be subject to public consultation, and all necessary fisheries management measures for all English offshore MPAs will be in place by the end of 2024.
The fishing vessels working in these waters are mainly French and Spanish with only two British static gillnetters which are vessels that deploy a static wall of net (trammel or gillnet) in a fixed position. According to available records, the type of fishing practiced is a mixture of gillnet, longline, bottom trawling, pelagic trawling and fly seine.
“Therefore,” the MMO concluded, “we feel that dropping boulders in this location will have minimal impact.”
The MMO said it remains open to discussions with Greenpeace to ensure both parties can achieve their common goal of marine nature recovery.