In a disappointing move, the European Commission has permitted harmful mussel dredging inside of Denmark’s Natura 2000 marine protected areas.
Oceana is deeply concerned that this destructive practice, which seriously threatens life on the seafloor, should be allowed to continue to take place inside areas that have been set aside to protect ecologically important marine life. Furthermore, in a baffling twist, these mussels will also be receiving eco-labels attesting to be “sustainable”.
“We have previously expressed our strong concern about mussel dredging inside Danish marine protected areas, and EU’s new decision is deeply disappointing. It is categorically wrong to call these mussels sustainable seafood when they are not only caught inside a protected area, but even worse, using destructive gear,” said Hanna Paulomäki, project manager of Oceana’s Baltic Sea office.
Besides catching its targeted blue mussels, dredging also removes sessile fauna that is attached to the mussels, and leaves the seafloor deserted and difficult to recolonize. Though many of the species and habitats in the area might not be easily recognized by most, they play an important role in the whole ecosystem.
“Denmark has seen a marked decrease in biodiversity over the past few decades. It is critical, now more than ever, that it protects and rebuilds its benthic fauna and marine biodiversity,” added Christina Abel, marine biologist at Oceana.
Denmark recently changed its mussel policy by reducing the area in which dredging is allowed and establishing a set of requirements that all fisheries must comply with. The problem, however, persists because this type of fishing, wherever it is allowed, is still harmful to the seafloor. Oceana urges that all destructive fishing methods be completely banned inside Natura 2000 sites. Similar fisheries in other European countries have been banned or restricted because of their destructive impacts on protected flora and fauna, but Denmark is going in the opposite direction.