- Nobody quite knows what will happen now, but history gives us an idea of what Dogger Bank could be like again.
- Halibut is not the only missing megafauna.
- It is a sign amid the prevailing gloom that we can begin to tackle the biodiversity crisis and the climate emergency by enhancing the power of the ocean to absorb carbon.
On Dogger Bank, part of the sunken island that formerly created a bridge between Britain and mainland Europe, a massive ecological experiment begins today as reported by The Guardian.
Trawling and dredging – fishing activities that not only scoop up fish and shellfish but also plough through plants and animals on the sea floor – are now banned, at least on the British part of this Atlantis of the North Sea.
Halibut is not the only missing megafauna.
One day sturgeon could be back, along with halibut and perhaps the oysters recorded along the south side of the bank in the 1880s.
These communities of restored plants and animals will enhance the sea’s ability to soak up carbon.
What we do know from Lyme Bay on the English south coast, where trawling and dredging were banned in 2008, is that four times the number of commercially valuable fish came back, as did four times the overall number of species.
Why you may ask, don’t we manage all our inshore waters that way?
Displacement from industrial side
The success of Lyme Bay gives the lie to the moaning about “displacement” from the industrial side of the fishing industry, especially in the Netherlands.
The reality is that the protection of Dogger Bank is likely to mean not the concentration of fishing in fewer places, but more fish to catch by “fishing the line” outside the protected area.
The protection of Dogger Bank is that rare thing – a Brexit dividend.
There are multiple ironies to it, though.
When the common fisheries policy ended in UK waters after Brexit, ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were – our charity had to remind them – obliged to enforce the nature laws we had inherited from Europe.
Reassuringly, there is opposition to his ideas from all sides, and they are a long way away from becoming law.
The protection of Dogger Bank nevertheless stands as a great achievement.
It is a sign amid the prevailing gloom that we can begin to tackle the biodiversity crisis and the climate emergency by enhancing the power of the ocean to absorb carbon.
Among these positive and hopeful developments are the creation of a “blue belt” of marine protected areas around some British overseas territories, the protection of the kelp belt off Sussex and the recovery of the bluefin tuna, now turning up off Britain, Ireland and Norway after decades of absence.
It’s already being done, not just on Dogger Bank.
It works and – here’s the thing – ultimately, everybody gains.
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Source: The Guardian