Unfortunately, current government decision weakens original proposal in favour of private interests.
The Danish government has finally released its long-awaited decision to establish new marine protected areas (MPAs) in Kattegat, to protect fragile and threatened soft bottom species and habitats, like sea pens and Haploops, which are largely left unprotected throughout European waters. The marine conservation organisation Oceana congratulates the Danish authorities, but regrets their decision to reduce the extent of protection that was originally proposed by the previous government.
“We are very pleased to see that these areas will finally be protected. Oceana initiated this process during our at-sea expedition in 2011, when to our surprise, we found remnants of important soft bottom communities which were thought to have gone extinct from Kattegat,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “Unfortunately, Denmark decided to reduce the extent of protection that had originally been proposed, in favour of short-term fishing interests, even though these ecosystems play an important role in maintaining healthy fish stocks.”
The original proposal, which was produced by the previous Danish government and had already passed through public consultation, included six areas covering 650 km2 in total. The current proposal reduces the total area to 590 km2, spread over nine, more fragmented areas. This reduction, together with the final exclusion of some areas because of fishing interest, weakens the proposal and its contribution to the recovery of biodiversity in the Kattegat. Oceana has proposed the protection of a much larger area, covering four of the new proposed sites. Researchers from the University of Aarhus have proposed a similar extension.
The areas are still to go through an EU consultation process, under the Common Fisheries Policy.