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Marine Life & Conservation

Greenpeace prosecuted over underwater boulder barrier

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Greenpeace in court this week after the Marine Management Organisation decided to prosecute Greenpeace over protecting nature by building an underwater boulder barrier.

The UK government’s Marine Management Organisation [MMO] is prosecuting Greenpeace UK and its Executive Director, John Sauven, over the creation of an underwater boulder barrier to stop destructive bottom trawling in the Offshore Brighton Marine Protected Area (MPA) in February 2021.

In response to Greenpeace’s underwater boulder barriers, the MMO has consulted on introducing bottom trawling restrictions in four protected areas, including the Dogger Bank where Greenpeace’s first underwater boulder barrier was built. They plan to consult on introducing limited bottom trawling restrictions across all 40 offshore English MPAs.

The Offshore Brighton MPA was established in 2016 specifically to protect the seabed, but in 2019 bottom trawlers spent 3,099 hours ploughing and destroying its seabed and another 448 fishing hours last year. The MMO’s prosecution against Greenpeace is for depositing boulders without a license under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

Stephen Fry, Ranulph Fiennes, Bonnie Wright and Mya Rose Craig, who all signed their names on to boulders, have penned an open letter to George Eustice, urging him to cease prosecution. Greenpeace’s boulders were signed by celebrities including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Thandiwe Newton, Mark Rylance, Jarvis Cocker, Robert Plant and others.

Inert granite boulders being placed into the English Channel as part of a bottom trawler exclusion zone in the Offshore Brighton Marine Protected Area. 

John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said “Our boulder barriers were absolutely necessary in the face of continued inaction from the Marine Management Organisation, which has failed to protect our oceans from industrial fishing. The organisation has ignored the science which clearly shows that fully protected areas at sea have the best ecological results. While we live through a climate and nature emergency, the Marine Management Organisation chooses to move at a snail’s pace and propose half measures to improve the UK’s failing network of protected areas at sea.

“It’s absurd that the Marine Management Organisation, which is supposed to protect our natural environment, is wasting public resources taking us to court for protecting our oceans and doing their job for them. Our boulder barriers have stopped bottom trawlers from further damaging our oceans and worsening the climate emergency. While the Marine Management Organisation continues to fail in its duties, we will do all we can to protect our oceans.”

Greenpeace UK has made representations to the MMO that the prosecution is not in the public interest. The MMO, instead of attacking Greenpeace and draining its resources for responsibly preventing environmental harm, should follow its remit and direct its own resources into doing its job to safeguard the UK’s seas for future generations.

Mr Sauven and Greenpeace UK will plead not guilty. Mr Sauven faces up to two years in jail if found guilty. A date for the full hearing of the case will be fixed by Newcastle Crown Court. The MMO will have an opportunity at the hearing to desist with the prosecution following representations from Greenpeace.

Bottom trawlers spent 68,000 hours ploughing UK protected areas in 2020. This damages habitats, harms biodiversity and disturbs vast stores of blue carbon which would otherwise remain safely in the seabed. Greenpeace, along with the Marine Conservation Society, revealed earlier this year that 26.5 million tonnes of carbon is stored in the seabed in the UK’s offshore protected areas alone.

Greenpeace’s experienced team acted within all necessary safety precautions and immediately notified the Maritime and Coastguard Agency of the coordinates of each boulder. Maritime traffic was notified by radio. The natural boulders are made of inert granite and placed at a safe depth. Their impact on the seabed was scientifically assessed in advance and was found to be negligible.

Greenpeace is calling on the UK government to ban destructive industrial fishing vessels, including bottom trawlers, supertrawlers and fly-shooters, from all of the UK’s protected areas as a matter of urgency. Currently there are few restrictions on industrial fishing in the overwhelming majority of the UK’s offshore marine protected areas.

For more information on Greenpeace UK visit their website by clicking here.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Marine Life & Conservation

Statement from Captain Paul Watson on his resignation from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (USA)

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It is with great relief that as of July 27th, 2022, I have ceased my employment and cut all ties with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (USA).

Since 1977, when I founded Sea Shepherd nearly a half century ago, I have dedicated my entire life to the aggressive and determined preservation and protection of biodiversity of marine life and our ocean.

Over the last few years, I have been slowly marginalized from the organization that I created in the USA. I was removed from the Board of Directors, my advice ignored, my close associates terminated and directors that supported me were removed. I was reduced to being a paid figurehead, denied the freedom to organize campaigns and the freedom to express the strong opinions that I have held for decades, opinions and campaigns that have shaped what Sea Shepherd has become and continues to be outside the borders of the United States.

As I said in the documentary movie Watson, my role is to rock the boat, to make waves, to provoke people to think about the damage we are collectively inflicting upon diversity and interdependence of life in the ocean.

The current Board seeks to turn our vessels away from confronting illegal poachers that prey on endangered species and instead seeks to turn our fleet into non-controversial research vessels. Research has always been a part of Sea Shepherd efforts, but it has not and should not be our priority. What we have provided is a unique function: a fearless leadership to intervene against poachers on the high seas, to document and to stop illegal acts that would otherwise go unnoticed and unchallenged. Sea Shepherd has always, and must always go where others fear to go, to say the things that must be said and to tackle the obstacles fearlessly and with great resolve.

The new direction that the present Board of Sea Shepherd USA has decided upon is not a path that I can in good conscience support nor participate in. I have not changed my objectives or resolve, and I refuse to change and adopt an approach that diminishes the incredible movement that we have created over the last four and a half decades, a movement that continues to grow outside the borders of the United States.

I remain a director of Sea Shepherd Global, and I remain a supporter of Global ships, officers, and crew. Together with all other national Sea Shepherd entities, with the exception of the USA, I will continue to support our campaigns around the world utilizing our unique philosophy of aggressive non-violence and cooperation with governments and NGOs.

We are Sea Shepherd. We are direct action motivated by imagination, persistence, and courage.

My future lies with the people from around the world who have made and continue to make Sea Shepherd the most influential, passionate, and effective marine conservation movement on this planet.

Captain Paul Watson

Founder – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Canada (1977)

Founder – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA (1981)

 

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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean is back

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The Marine Conservation Society’s annual Great British Beach Clean is back, running from 16th – 25th September 2022.

The charity is calling for volunteers across the UK to join them at the coast for a week of beach cleaning and litter surveying.

The Great British Beach Clean, sponsored by Ireland’s number one soup brand, Cully & Sully, is more than just a clean up. Every year volunteers make note of the litter they collect, sharing the data with the Marine Conservation Society’s experts. The charity has used data collected to campaign for carrier bag charges, single-use plastic bans and deposit return schemes.

Last year, volunteers collected over 5 tonnes of litter, with an average of 3.85 items found for every metre of beach surveyed across the UK.

Clare Trotman, Beachwatch Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “We wouldn’t be able to do the work we do at the Marine Conservation Society without the support of our volunteers heading out to the coast to collect vital information on what’s polluting our seas.

“With beach cleans happening across the UK, from remote beaches to busy seaside resorts, there’s so many ways to get involved and support us this year. If you can’t make it to the beach, you can still take part by doing a local litter pick and survey where you live.”

At last year’s Great British Beach Clean, 75% of all litter collected was made from plastic and polystyrene.

From production to disposal, plastic has a direct impact on the ocean’s capacity to combat the climate crisis. Manufacturing plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Most plastic is produced using fossil fuels, meaning more plastic production results in increased carbon emissions. Plastic is also entering the food chain, from tiny phytoplankton to ocean giants, like whales.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “Pollution, whether it’s big, small or even invisible, is having a hugely negative impact on our ocean and all those who rely on it – including us. Tiny microplastics are being eaten by plankton at the very foundation of ocean ecosystems, animals big and small are being tangled in plastic packaging, turtles are mistaking it for food, and chemical pollution is changing the ocean’s chemistry.

“All of this is an alarming picture of the state of our seas, but each and every volunteer who joins the Great British Beach Clean helps us research the scale of pollution in the UK. This research is vital to stop pollution at source, and we know it works. Cleaner beaches will support a healthy ocean, and a healthy planet.”

Cullen Allen (Aka Cully) from Cully & Sully said: “We’re delighted to be part of the Great British Beach Clean 2022. We’ve supported beach cleans in Ireland for the past 4 years and are excited about extending our commitments to the Great British Beach Clean. We’re excited to take part and get started, and of course spread the word on the importance of keeping our beaches and public spaces clean”.

Join the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean as an organiser, or volunteer, this year. Sign up via the charity’s website: www.mcsuk.org/greatbritishbeachclean.

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