In view of the EU Commission's new plans for more sustainable fishing, fishermen on the German North Sea coast see their livelihoods in jeopardy. According to an action plan by the Commission, fishing with bottom trawls - i.e. nets that touch the seabed - should be prohibited in protected areas by 2030 at the latest.
If that were to happen, from the point of view of the fishermen, there would hardly be any fishing areas off the coast where traditional crab fishing could be carried out. "If that goes through, it's over," said the chairman of the Weser-Ems state fishing association, Dirk Sander, on Friday at the fishing day of the Association of Small Sea and Coastal Fishermen in East Frisian Neuharlingersiel (Wittmund district).
"There will be nothing left of us here"
Bottom trawls are criticized because the seabed can be severely damaged by the fishing gear. However, Sander made it clear that there was no alternative for the 54 shrimp fishermen who remained on the Lower Saxony coast after difficult economic years. "You can't fish crabs in the Wadden Sea or anywhere with nets that aren't on the bottom. You can't fish them either". As a result of a ban, Germany would have to import more crabs and fish. "There will be nothing left of us here."
The action plan that is in the room is actually a "very big challenge" for northern German fisheries as a whole, said the fisheries officer in the Lower Saxony Ministry of Agriculture, Stephan Wessels. In the Lower Saxony coastal sea alone, around half of the area is designated as a Natura 2000 protection area and would then be taboo for fishermen. "If a ban on mobile, bottom-contact fishing gear were implemented there, it would of course have very serious socio-economic effects far beyond the fisheries."