Swedish authority for management and protection of marine environment remains publicly silent while decisions threatening sensitive communities are being made..
Coalition Clean Baltic, Danish Society for Nature Conservation, Greenpeace, Landsforeningen Levende Hav, OCEANA and WWF sent an open letter today to the interim Director General of the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, Ingemar Berglund. The letter calls upon the agency to step forwards and state its expert opinion regarding the potential re-opening areas in the Kattegat where bottom contacting gear such as trawls are currently prohibited, and where preliminary surveys have indicated the presence of vulnerable habitats. The full text of the letter appears below.
Havs- och Vattenmyndigheten
Gullbergs Strandgata 15
SE-404 39 Göteborg
Copenhagen, 24th May 2016
Dear Mr. Berglund,
We are writing you with great concern about the potential reopening of the so-called ‘Kattegat box’, the area in the south-eastern Kattegat where Denmark and Sweden jointly implemented a temporary ban on bottom trawling in 2009, with the goal to protect the heavily depleted Kattegat cod.
As you are no doubt aware, Denmark’s government is currently pushing Sweden to reopen this area, in the interest of its fishing industry. However, scientific surveys in the area have indicated that the 7 years ban on bottom trawling has permitted sessile and long-lived benthic species to re-inhabit the area. For example, surveys have identified communities of sea pens and burrowing megafauna, which are included on the both OSPAR and HELCOM Lists of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats. Prohibiting bottom trawling is the only single measure to be applied to conserve and restore this community. This is of the utmost importance, as it is estimated that over half of the area classified as this biotope have been destroyed during the past 50 years1. These communities play a crucial role in maintaining the function of the entire ecosystem by providing food and shelter for many other species, including commercially important fish. For example, it represents an important nursery area for Kattegat cod. Furthermore, there is another process ongoing to protect areas overlapping with the current fishery closures. The County Board of Skåne has presented a proposal2 for an MPA to protect harbour porpoise and this proposal should also be taken into consideration when making a decision with these areas. Porpoises would greatly benefit from fishery limitations as well as a reduced traffic in the area.
Based on the results of the surveys, your agency was given an assignment by the Government to evaluate deep soft bottoms in Kattegat by October 20163. Until more complete information about this area is available, the precautionary principle4should be applied, in order to avoid further destroying this sensitive community. Failing to protect this habitat also jeopardises the chances of reaching good environmental status by 2020, as required under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
As the independent Swedish authority responsible for managing the use of Sweden’s marine environment and resources, we call upon you to fulfill your obligation to advise the Swedish public, stakeholders, and public authorities on the management of this important area. We are very concerned that while Denmark continues to pressure the Swedish government to reopen the Kattegat box to bottom trawling, SwAM remains publicly silent on the matter, despite being aware of the potential ecological value of the area and despite for being vocal with this matter in the past.
We urge you, as an independent expert authority, to stand up for your objectives and ensure that no premature decision is taken by the Swedish government concerning this vulnerable area.
Coalition Clean Baltic CCB, Mikhail Durkin, Executive Secretary
Danish Society for Nature Conservation, Henning Mørk Jørgensen, Marine biologist
Greenpeace Nordic, Magnus Eckeskog, Oceans campaigner
Landsforeningen Levende Hav, Knud Andersen, Chair
Oceana, Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director, Oceana in Europe
WWF Danmark, Mette Blæsbjerg, Policy Advisor Oceans
4Artikel 2 (3) i Europaparlamentets och rådets förordning (EU) nr 1380/2013 lyder ”Den gemensamma fiskeripolitiken ska genomföra en ekosystemansats i fiskeriförvaltningen, för att säkerställa att fiskeverksamhetens negativa inverkan på de marina ekosystemen minimeras, och ska sträva efter att säkerställa att fiske och vattenbruk inte leder till en försämring av den marina miljön.