5 reasons why Greenpeace built another boulder barrier

5 reasons why Greenpeace built another boulder barrier

Our blue planet is suffering. Precious marine habitats are home to lots of sealife and store huge amounts of carbon. But industrial fishing, the climate crisis, plastic pollution and more threaten them. Scientists agree: to ensure marine ecosystem survival, we must protect at least 30% of the global oceans by 2030.

Even though UK oceans have a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), these are largely ‘protected’ in name alone. There’s an industrial fishing frenzy taking place in our seas, which is destroying sealife and the livelihoods of small scale fishermen. That’s why Greenpeace takes action by placing large boulders on the seabed. The protective underwater barriers help stop destructive bottom trawlers from continuing to wreck the ocean.

Yesterday, activists dropped boulders into a section of the South West Deeps (East) MPA – a large, so-called “protected” area nearly 200km off the coast of Cornwall. In the last 18 months alone, industrial fishing boats have spent nearly 19,000 hours fishing around the clock inside this area. Our new boulder barrier will make sure that one of the most heavily fished parts of this Marine Protected Area is off limits to bottom trawling.

This action is a last resort. We would much prefer the Government did their job to protect our oceans so that we didn’t have to. However, we’ve submitted petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures, answered every call for evidence and consultation, had countless meetings with the Government, you name it. But our oceans are in crisis and our Government is adrift. Here are 5 reasons why we decided to take action in this way.

Put simply, we build these underwater boulder barriers because they work. Placing these boulders stops bottom trawlers from damaging the area immediately. It makes it impossible for their fishing gear to be dragged along the seabed, so they can’t destroy the delicate marine life that lives there.

We’ve carefully placed our boulders in one of the most heavily fished areas to protect the most vulnerable parts of the South West Deeps. But it’s up to the Government to finish the job and ban industrial fishing from all of the UK’s Marine Protected Areas.

This tried and tested action secures lasting ocean protection. In 2009, Greenpeace placed over 200 boulders on the seabed around two Swedish Marine Protected Areas in Kattegatt, which are home to porpoises and a rare species of shark. Last month, bottom trawling was banned in all of the Kattegatt protected areas – with a total fishing ban in half of them! It’s now one of the strongest protections of any European network of Marine Protected Areas.

We’ve also had success in the UK. Greenpeace dropped boulders in the Dogger Bank MPA in 2020 and the Offshore Brighton MPA in 2021. Earlier this year, thanks to these actions, bottom-towed gear was banned in four of the UK’s 76 offshore MPAs, including the Dogger Bank.

While this was a groundbreaking moment for UK ocean protection, this is a tiny amount of the UK’s total MPAs. And a drop in the ocean compared to how much protection our marine life needs.

Greenpeace actions aimed at holding the government to account don’t always win the backing of politicians! However, Conservatives – such as Henry Smith MP, Sir Peter Bottomley MP and Theresa May’s former environment advisor, Lord Randall – supported our boulder barrier alongside the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas MP. Labour’s Barry Gardiner MP and Clive Lewis MP added their names to our boulders at Dogger Bank.

Their names were stencilled onto boulders, which were then dropped into the ocean to help form the protective boulder barrier.

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