Sea Shepherd Reveals Illegal Trawling with Impunity in Denmark’s Protected Waters


17 April 2018

A 14-week investigation by the marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd reveals illegal fish trawling is still taking place in the Sound, the strait between Sweden and Denmark, despite the banning of such destructive fishing practices in the area since 1932.

From January 16th through April 6th, Sea Shepherd volunteers and scientists conducted research in the Sound (known locally as the Öresund or Øresund) on board the M/V Emanuel Bronner patrol boat to study the seabed for signs of damage by fishing trawlers.

Scientists took soil and water samples and conducted a side-scan sonar survey of the sea floor which showed evidence of the illegal trawling (see image) with six trawl traces found in just one stretch of water one kilometer long. Sea Shepherd divers also found cod and dead harbor porpoises trapped in “ghost nets”, fishing gear abandoned in the Sound.

The ban on bottom trawling over 80 years ago has allowed for many rare and diverse aquatic species to flourish in the Sound. But extensive research published by the Oceana Foundation in 2016 showed that the current protections weren’t sufficient to protect this unique and fragile ecosystem, and called on Danish and Swedish governments to establish a single transboundary marine protected area (MPA) across the entire Sound to encompass the existing smaller protected areas and the currently unprotected areas (

However, Sea Shepherd’s findings show that nothing has changed. Trawling is still permitted in the northern part of the Sound, except in February and March when endangered cod are spawning. But even these restrictions are ignored by fishing trawlers, with one Danish boat caught red-handed with its nets in the water on March 11th. Lack of enforcement, particularly on the Danish side of the Sound, makes it easy for these trawlers to operate with impunity, even in broad daylight.

“Since arriving in the area, the Swedish coastguard has boarded us twice and called us up on radio to identify ourselves numerous times,” said Sea Shepherd Scandinavia Director Lukas Erichsen. “We have not heard or seen from the Danish coastguard or fisheries control once. There is simply a lack of enforcement or even simple presence from the Danish side.”

Sea Shepherd’s findings were shared in the Danish press on April 3rd (, prompting the Minister of Fisheries to call an emergency committee meeting the following day, where the Danish Socialist People's Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti) echoed Oceana’s call to create a marine protection area for the entire Sound, effectively banning all trawling year-round. The parliament will be debating the issue on April 18th.

“We handed over our documentation of illegal activities in the Sound to the Danish Fisheries Inspections Agency,” said Erichsen. “We hope they will finally close the loopholes in the area and start actively monitoring.”


For further information and interview requests, contact: 
Lukas Erichsen, Director Sea Shepherd Scandinavia
Tel: +45 3120 7285

Photos (credit Sea Shepherd): 

- Traces Trawl area showing the six trawl traces in one kilometer of the Sound.
- M/V Emanuel Bronner, Sea Shepherd's patrol vessel, in the Port of Domsten, Sweden
- Sea Shepherd diver
- Cod, in the Sound
- Net in the Sound
- Net with Cod in the Sound
- Porpoise, found dead in the Sound
- Porpoise 2, dead in net

Sea Shepherd Global

Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit marine conservation movement using innovative tactics and direct action to defend, conserve and protect the worlds oceans and marine wildlife. Founded by Paul Watson in 1977, today Sea Shepherd is a worldwide movement with independent national and regional entities in over 20 countries, united by a common mission and a fleet of eleven ships on campaigns around the world. Sea Shepherd investigates and documents violations of international and national conservation law, and enforces conservation measures where legal authority exists. For more information, visit:


About Us

SEA SHEPHERD GLOBAL Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations. A selection of press images are available on our Media Site (high-res images and a videos without watermarks available to qualified press on request):


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