North Sea wildlife to benefit from new Fisheries Accord

Overfishing has major implications all along the food chain. It depletes fish stocks and sadly wastes huge amounts of bycatch. Yet despite the problems, parties are often slow to react.

Now, after years of negotiations, the Dutch government has agreed with the fisheries sector and various nature organisations to take action for the protection of North Sea coastal wildlife.

Limits on fishing

How? Well, yesterday the various parties (such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, Natuurmonumenten, the Ministry for Economic Affairs, and the fisheries sector) signed the ‘North Sea Fisheries Accord’.

The parties are happy with the way negotiations turned out. Nature organisations are calling it “an important stepping-stone on the road to better protections for the North Sea“. The fisheries sector has called the Fisheries Accord a boost towards more sustainable fishing. They are also pleased that “the NGOs concerned worked constructively towards this end“.

Additionally, the Fisheries Accord is of great importance for natural areas in the Natura 2000, an EU-initiative and “the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world”. Note: ports at Rotterdam and Amsterdam are excluded from the Natura 2000-area due to their economic importance.

Aims of the Fisheries Accord

The Fisheries Accord limits fishing, or makes it more sustainable, in certain areas off the Dutch coast. This North Sea ‘coastal zone’ lies in an area along the northern edge of the islands in the Wadden Sea, from Bergen in North Holland down to the German coast. Hopefully, this will be a boon for wildlife in the Netherlands.

The Accord is meant to give designated areas time to ‘heal’, by lessening pressure from over-exploitative fishing. Further, its goals have to be met by 2020. If this is not done, then more areas will be made off-limits for fishing.

In addition, shallow areas near the Belgian border and the Wadden Sea itself will be better protected. Some shallow areas will be closed off completely from fishing activities. These areas can be seen as ‘kindergartens’ for underwater life, because many little aquatic creatures spend the first year of their existence here.

Image result for baby fish

And the measures are not just meant to benefit those under the sea. Birds and seals, for example, should also reap the rewards.

Hopefully, this will ensure that natural habitats get a rest and the fauna can start repopulating. At the same time, some areas that were closed have been reopened for fishing.

Practical implications?

Fishers are already investing in so-called ‘black boxes’. These track where they have sailed and fished. Further, they are implementing material changes in terms of different types of netting. These are made of lighter materials and have bigger holes, to allow some bycatch to escape.

Such measures apply to fishing activities in water of up to 20 metres in depth. Effects will be felt mainly by those fishing for shrimp, and the fishing sector is itself responsible for meeting the requirements. The government will check to make sure that happens.

The Fisheries Accord was signed on the same day as Trump hinted, again, that he’d pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement (but you know…maybe he just wanted more covfefe).

Yet in some small way, maybe, these types of initiatives could help encourage other countries to keep fighting for the preservation of natural habitats – and work together against climate change as well.

Image result for north sea seals
It’s a new day, we can do it! Flippers to the sky!


*featured image source.

I'm both an insider and outsider to Dutch culture. With the Dutch nationality and fluent Dutch, I'll happily sip a bike-beer on the way to a night out or snarf dropjes straight from the bag. As an outsider though, I've only lived on-off in NL.


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