French Fishermen Angered After Destructive ‘Bottom Trawling’ in UK Waters Sabotaged

This picture taken on September 3, 2019 shows Esperanza, the environmentalist organization Greenpeace's boat sailing on the Amazon reef off the French Guiana coast. - A Greenpeace-CNRS mission explores the Amazon reef of the French Guiana coast, a unique biodiversity reservoir, threatened by Brazil's oil exploration. (Photo by Pierre TRIHAN …
PIERRE TRIHAN/AFP via Getty Images

Activists aboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza are said to have dropped several large boulders into the English channel in an effort to stop bottom-trawling fishing in a protected area favoured by French boats.

The ecological activist group tossed 18 boulders overboard in the channel in order to create a barrier and prevent trawling by fishermen who use a bottom-trawling method to scrape the seabed, which Greenpeace has likened to taking a bulldozer to a national park. According to reports, the area impacted is one used by French ships.

The group announced the formation of the “boulder barrier” on Twitter on Friday, and later released a full statement on their website saying, “This barrier will stop destructive fishing in what’s supposed to be a protected part of the ocean. But we’re also here to expose the government’s failure to look after its so-called Marine Protected Areas all around the UK.”

“These boulders will deter destructive industrial ‘bottom trawlers’ from fishing in that area, because they risk damaging their fishing gear if it comes into contact with the boulders,” the group said and stated that they took safety precautions and informed local authorities as to the location of the boulders.

The barrier was placed in the Offshore Brighton Marine Protected Area (MPA), which lies around 28 miles south of the UK mainland.

French groups reacted with criticism to the move, with the organisation of producers in the major fishing port of Boulogne, releasing an email to members warning that the action could endanger the safety of French vessels operating in the English channel.

In the UK, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) called on members of British political parties to condemn Greenpeace’s actions.

“We want to know if you publicly condemn, in unequivocal terms, vigilante action that is illegal, and recklessly endangers crews and fishing vessels. Whatever differences we may have with the Government over the implementation of its policies on marine protected areas, we need to know that we are not moving into an era where policy is dictated by media-savvy bullies,” the NFFO stated.

Earlier this year it was revealed that European Union member-state “super-trawlers” were still operating in British waters despite Brexit and despite comments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that indicated the practice would end.

Thea Taylor, co-lead of the Brighton Dolphin Project, noted the effect of the super trawlers in the channel last year saying, “Between them, these supertrawlers have not only caught masses of their target fish species but tonnes of fish and marine life that they do not want, including marine mammals. These are usually ground down for animal feed or thrown back dead as bycatch.”

“We see a surge in dead dolphins on Sussex beaches when supertrawlers are here or during the weeks after,” Taylor added.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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