Marine ecologist: “May more attention be paid to seabed disturbance and bycatch from fishing”

Nitrogen regulations and the high diesel prices cause headaches for fishermen, but actually bycatch and seabed disturbance deserve much more attention. That thinks marine ecologist Wouter van der Heij of the Waddenvereniging, who is concerned about the damage to nature. “Many young fish do not survive being discarded.”

According to ecologist Van der Heij, it is inevitable that the fleet will have to shrink and that the remaining fishing fleet will have to operate sustainably. “Our Wadden Sea and the North Sea coastal zone are the most intensive fishing areas in Europe, which are also protected fishing areas. That is a problem. How do you deal with marine nature?

Van der Heij: “If nothing changes, the damage will remain high. The intensity is much too high for a nature reserve, you have to change that by shrinking the area. And in a smaller fishing area you can of course not do the same number of fishing cutters continue to fish, which is not sustainable.”

According to him, the attention is wrongly focused on flatfish fisheries. “The largest part of the fishing fleet consists of shrimp fishermen. 200 permits have been issued for this. And it is the shrimp fishermen who fish along the coast and then end up in nature reserves.” Beam trawling – which both flatfish and shrimp fishermen use – plowed the seabed considerably and a lot of bycatch ends up in the nets.

Van der Heij: “The Wadden Sea is the nursery of the young fish, and it usually does not survive being thrown back into the sea.” Pulse trawl fishing – where small electric shocks were delivered – caused less damage to the seabed and was cheaper to use, but has been in the European Union since 2019 forbidden

Fishermen give opposite NH News shows that the seabed is also plowed during storms. “They do indeed claim that the natural dynamics are greater than the damage caused by fishing gear,” says Van der Heij. “But we don’t know enough about it yet. How can you fish if you don’t know its impact? Moreover, there are not storms every day and in parts where the dynamics are low, the impact of fishing can indeed be large.”

extra careful

“Every year, 90,000 hours are fished in the Wadden Sea and 120,000 hours in the coastal zone, a nature reserve. You have to be extra careful with that, so the number of hours has to be reduced. It is now far too much. Now there is constant turmoil from the bottom. Moreover, every fishing hour also produces a few buckets of bycatch. And some species are protected. So you have to reduce the bycatch and that can be discussed.”

“On the other hand, it is more difficult to start conversations about disturbing the seabed,” he continues. “I can really see the concerns of the fishing industry. The areas are getting smaller, the conditions are stricter and the prices are not rising. The challenges are therefore very diverse. However, I think that 30 percent of the coastal sea should be protected. It is important that As a nature organization and fishermen, we often disagree with each other, but we do have a history of conversation and I think we will eventually get on with it.”