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The Bottom of the Barrel: Greenpeace and Bottom Trawling

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The pressure group Greenpeace has taken action against ‘bottom trawling’ in protected UK waters by dropping boulders into the English Channel to create a “Boulder barrier”. Bottom trawling is a method of fishing which drags heavy-weighted nets along the sea floor. It is an economical way of fishing for the quantities collected, but the issue lies in its indiscriminate nature. Any species which happens to get in the way is fished, resulting in falling biodiversity levels in the ocean. 

The rocks will destroy any of the weighted nets used by fishermen to comb the seafloor, if they enter the zone cordoned off by the protesters. There has been popular celebrity involvement including Ranulph Fiennes and Thandie Newton, but the public opinion surrounding these actions are seemingly mixed. Greenpeace’s tactics are typical of an outsider pressure group, working against the government and seeking high-profile and media-based campaigns. 

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched an investigation into the campaign group’s actions, stating that “everyone needs to act within the law”. Bottom trawling is not illegal, not even in the protected areas of British marine life where green peace currently presides. While it is not difficult to understand the moral problems with bottom trawling, the decision for a non-governmental organisation to take direct action to prevent the activities of other citizens is problematic, especially when their actions are legally questionable themselves. However, Greenpeace allege that their motivation for doing this is to force the government to ban this behaviour, and to incentivise them to finally take the conversation seriously. 

The government has already had to deal with the fishing industry which was one of the prioritised issues in the post-Brexit trade talks and taking back control of the UK’s fishing waters was one of the leading promises of the Leave Campaign back in 2016. As a result of the talks, the UK is able to completely expel any EU fishing boats in their waters are 2026. Since the conversation has been partly addressed, perhaps it is time to address all aspects of the UK fishing trade. Greenpeace claims that they have been using the same method in Germany since 2008, and they have seen numerous benefits. Cooperation from both Greenpeace and the government is the preferable way to move forward, although, this is seemingly unlikely due to the outsider status of the pressure group. 

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