Oceana says it is deeply disappointed in the Danish Government’s recent approval of blue mussel fisheries inside two Natura 2000 sites in the Limfjord, Denmark. The organisation says that this decision puts both areas, which have been protected to conserve ecologically important reef habitats, in jeopardy. Oceana recommends that Denmark and other EU countries prohibit destructive fishing methods, such as dredging and bottom trawling, inside all marine protected areas.

“We are greatly concerned that the Danish Government is continuing along the same dangerous track they started in March 2012, when they permitted mussel fisheries inside another Natura 2000 site”, said Hanna Paulomäki, Oceana Baltic Sea Project Manager. “What kind of precedent are we setting, by creating marine protected areas and then approving the very activities they need protection from?”

Blue mussels (Mytilus sp.) are typically attached to hard bottoms and create living spaces and feeding areas for a number of other species. While blue mussels are not protected by the EU Habitats Directive, they grow on reefs which are and in other cases create their own reefs. Oceana assert that destroying these reefs conflicts with conservation objectives and certainly badly impacts the environment. In addition to damaging the seafloor, mussel dredging can also reduce the distribution of macro algae, which adhere to hard substrates (such as shells). It can take years for benthic communities to recover from mussel dredging.

According to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), The Limfjord is the most important waters for mussel fishing in Denmark. The mussel fishery here can be dated back to the start of the last century when mussels were primarily fished for use as bait in long-line fisheries. Today Denmark is one of the most important producers of processed mussels in Europe with 90% of the landings exported as single frozen mussels or canned commodities.

The MSC aims to help you choose seafood from sustainable fisheries, and has certified blue mussel fishing in Denmark as such. However, Professor Callum Roberts in his book Ocean of Life says that an increasing number of fisheries are being certified that cannnot possibly be regarded as doing little harm to the environment. As long as an area is well managed for the target species, then the certifiers are turning a blind eye to the wider environmental destruction.

Fishing methods like dredging, which is used in the Danish mussel fishing, kill or maim almost everything in the dredge’s path leaving a dead ocean bottom resembling a ploughed field. It is inconceivable how something can be labelled as a marine reserve whilst allowing bottom dredging. The sooner the IUCN Guidelines on marine protected areas are followed the better.

Oceana is the largest international organisation focused solely on ocean conservation, protecting marine ecosystems and endangered species.

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