A group of fishermen delivered an urgent letter to King Willem-Alexander today. They are concerned about the future of fishing in the Netherlands. According to them, restrictive rules from the government “kill the fishing industry in the Netherlands”. The letter was signed by 400 skippers and companies in the fishing industry and was received by security at Noordeinde Palace.
The letter discusses, among other things, the new nitrogen standards for cutters that fish in Natura 2000 areas. To comply with the standards, many ships must be converted before 1 October and given a cleaner engine. Such a catalyst costs about 100,000 euros per ship. A subsidy can be applied for for half of that amount.
According to skippers, many ships are not suitable for this and some skippers cannot afford the amount. “Standards for which (financially and physically) unfeasible adjustments have to be made to the cutters. And the smaller the cutter, the less space on board, the more unfeasible it is to comply with the umpteenth package of government requirements”, the fishermen write in the letter. .
Koos de Visser and his family have been fishing for shrimps for generations. Now he sees the future bleakly:
A development that is also very worrying for fishermen is the ever-increasing area in which fishing is not allowed on the bottom. This concerns shrimp fishermen, but also larger cutters that fish for sole and plaice.
At the moment about 30 percent of the North Sea is a protected area, of which only 5 percent is ‘effectively protected’, which means that it is off limits for bottom anglers. It has been agreed in the North Sea Agreement that this area will be expanded to 15 percent. Last month, the European Commission presented a plan in which this ambition is doubled, i.e. 30 percent protected area without seabed-disturbing fishing.
The fishermen are afraid that there is not much room left for the shrimp fishermen. “There is less and less space to fish, also due to the arrival of windmills. The Dutch fishery is being excluded. That really has to stop,” says initiator Evert de Blok.
Fisheries economist from Wageningen University Kees Taal confirms that fishermen in the Netherlands are in a difficult position. A ban on seabed fishing in coastal nature reserves will hit the Dutch shrimp sector hard, he says. “Shrimp live in shallow water close to the coast. In the Netherlands, all of that is a Natura 2000 area, you can’t just go fishing outside it – no shrimp live there.”
Taal points out that the plans in Brussels have not yet been set in stone. “It really depends on what kind of policy the cabinet is making. A compromise can roll out, for example if there is room for shrimp pulse fishing again. But if fishing in Natura 2000 areas is really banned, then there is a lot of little perspective.”
It is precisely this lack of a long-term perspective that makes it difficult to make investments, according to the fishermen.
Deserts under water
Nature interest groups are happy with the establishment of areas in which fishing on the bottom is not allowed. “That is really necessary for nature recovery,” says Wytske Postma, director of the North Sea Foundation. She points to studies that show how harmful bottom fishing is. “Through the centuries of heavy seabed fishing in the Netherlands, large parts of the North Sea have turned into underwater deserts,” says Postma. “The trawl nets remove stones, destroy anemones, oysters and shellfish disappear and that affects entire ecosystems.”
But the organizations also think: there should be room for fishing. “Fishing and shrimp fishing are part of the Netherlands,” says Postma. In the long term, wind farms will cover approximately 11 percent of the North Sea. According to the foundation, even if 30 percent of nature reserves are closed by then, there will still be room for fishing. Postma points out that other forms of fishing will remain possible, even in protected areas. “Shellfish and oyster fisheries. Or fish that don’t live on the bottom: mackerel when caught with hand lines and herring in the North Sea, for example.”
- Historic UN treaty: 30 percent of the ocean must be protected by 2030
- Extra protection for nature reserves in the North Sea
- Brussels wants to ban bottom-disturbing fishing in protected areas