Sea Shepherd Deutschland ist zurück in der Ostsee

Donnerstag, 24 Jun, 2021

Sea Shepherd Germany has returned to the Baltic Sea once again to fight for the survival of harbour porpoises and other endangered marine wildlife. Thanks to funding from the Deutsche Postcode Lotterie (German Postcode Lottery), we are able to carry out specific actions on land and at sea. We will patrol waters from Flensburg to Rügen with our vessel the M/V Emanuel Bronner to document and actively prevent illegal fishing activities or violations of existing conservation laws. In addition, we are protecting marine animals by removing death traps such as abandoned fishing gear polluting the sea as well as the beaches. Our work will put a spotlight on the problems Baltic Sea faces and will raise awareness for the need of protection. 

Greetings from the Baltic Sea Campaign 2021 dive team. Michael Sklenak / Sea Shepherd

Few people know that this is one of the most threatened marine ecosystems on earth. Biodiversity is dwindling, overfishing and pollution are taking their toll. Eutrophication, the accumulation of nutrients in waters that are actually low in nutrients, causes murky water, toxic algal blooms, oxygen deficiency and loss of biodiversity. 

The M/V Emanuel Bronner returns from a mission in the evening. Michael Sklenak / Sea Shepherd

There are a variety of causes. However, fishing plays a specific role with the use of gillnets in particular. Especially in the Baltic Sea, gillnet fishing is one of the most common methods for catching cod, herring and flatfish. The fine nets can hardly be seen underwater by seabirds, juvenile fish and marine mammals such as harbour porpoises, which get entangled and eventually drown. Dead harbour porpoises bearing evidence of injuries caused by fishing are regularly found washed up on the local beaches. As part of the Baltic Sea Campaign, we patrol the waters with our vessel, the M/V Emanuel Bronner, to find illegally set nets and hand them over to the authorities. In addition to this, we document the impacts of gillnet fishing and violations of existing conservation laws, such as the discard ban.

Campaign leader Flo keeps an eye out for marker buoys. Robert May / Sea Shepherd

“The harbour porpoise population only has a real chance of recovering if we grant the time the population needs. To achieve this, it is crucial to reduce or even eliminate gillnets which are their biggest threat and using these nets is currently still allowed in marine protected areas.”

Florian Stadler, Campaign Leader, Baltic Sea Campaign 2021
This cod was freed from the ghost net and rescued. Robert May / Sea Shepherd

With the Baltic Sea Campaign we are also helping to reduce marine pollution. Millions of old fishing nets drift through the oceans worldwide; up to 10,000 pieces of net are lost every year in the Baltic Sea alone. It takes centuries for the material to finally breakdown into microplastics. Until then, the nets are deadly for countless marine animals. A major goal of the Baltic Sea Campaign is therefore the recovery of ghost nets. Thanks to an underwater robot (ROV) and specially trained divers, we will first locate the nets and prepare them for retrieval. The recovered nets will then be properly disposed of or, if possible, cleaned and recycled in an environmentally friendly manner. In addition to the areas of operation along the Baltic Sea coast, our onshore teams will carry out beach cleanups throughout Germany cleaning up waterside areas.

The divers return to the boat from an exploratory dive. Robert May / Sea Shepherd

“The Baltic Sea is right on our doorstep, and therefore we have a special responsibility to protect this fragile ecosystem. Climate change, environmental toxins, plastic, noise and fishing threaten flora and fauna and systematically destroy essential habitats that are still seriously underestimated in their importance. We don't need a patchwork of protected areas that can still be fished. We need extensive no-take zones, protected areas that are connected via the migration routes of their inhabitants. Protected areas that really deserve their name. We need a full and thorough control of fishing activities and must fight activities such as the illegal disposal of bycatch at sea. This is the only way we can save what can still be saved.” - Florian Stadler, Campaign Leader, Baltic Sea Campaign 2021.

The ghost net is pulled on board in a combined effort. Robert May / Sea Shepherd (scroll for more images)
The recovered net is examined closer on deck to release any live animals. Robert May / Sea Shepherd
The M/V Emanuel Bronner has returned to the Baltic Sea. Robert May / Sea Shepherd
Campaign leader Flo presenting the new Baltic Sea Campaign flag. Katie Mähler / Sea Shepherd
Michael checks along the wash margin where marine debris can often be found. Katie Mähler / Sea Shepherd
Campaign leader Flo shows a section of the recovered ghost net. Katie Mähler / Sea Shepherd

Watch the campaign launch video below:

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