Cutter “Anton”, research vessel from Danish Association for a Living Sea, documented the economic feasibility of replacing lobster trawling in the Kattegat sea with fishing lobster by lobster pots. This would create a win-win situation for both fisheries and environment.

Trawling for Norwegian lobster in the deeper soft bottomed parts of the Kattegat Sea is bad news for many animals on the sea floor and their habitat.  Trawls are dragged along the sea floor crushing everything in their way and accidentally catching many non-targeted species.  To comply with the measures settled by the rules of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Danish government identified several areas in the Kattegat Sea which may be subject to marine protection, and as a consequence fisheries will be closed. However, the areas currently identified are small and fragmented, don’t have much fishing anyways and are partly already designated either for wind energy or for military exercise. The Danish Association for a Living Sea would like the government to be more ambitious. To make this happen it’s crucial to get the support of  fishermen.  The Danish Association for a Living Sea proposed to identify more environmentally strategic areas (with a consequent trawling ban) and at the same time, allow in these areas sustainable lobster fishing by lobster pots, which do not damage the sea floor nor impact the biodiversity.  The switch from trawling to potting may be an incentive to extend lobster potting  to the entire Kattegat.  Trawl and lobster pots are mutually exclusive: lobster pots laying on the bottom for two or three days on long lines are dragged away and destroyed by trawling activities.

The crucial question is – is it possible to make profit out of lobster potting under the natural and logistic circumstances in the Danish part of the Kattegat Sea? Fishermen, local politicians and some academic studies say it isn’t. In Norway and Sweden there is a thriving fishery activity for lobsters in particular in the area of the archipelagos and the fjords, where trawling is either not practical for lack of turning space and presence of rocks at the bottom, or because it is forbidden for shipping reasons. The Danish Association for a Living Sea spent part of summer 2016 documenting this type of fishery. The documenting methods of this experience are unique. Instead of looking into catching reports, using commercial sources, auctions, fish exports or any other government source, data are taken by asking fishermen directly, travelling from harbor to harbor in a traditional Danish fishing vessel named “Anton” .  The data collected avoid most of the under reporting, which is innate in fishing research.

In this case the data collected can be summarized as follows.  The average value of the catch for a Danish trawler is about 2 million Danish kroner. The catch of Norwegian and Swedish lobster potters about 3-4 million. Expenses for Danish trawlers are 50% compared to 25% for the potters. Lobster potters use much less diesel; keep their undamaged catch alive and happy for months, waiting for optimal prizes. Moreover, potted Norwegian lobsters are a better product for consumers. They do not contain any sand and silt, which are on the contrary very common in lobsters caught with trawling methods due to the cloud of mud that the trawl raises.  In addition, small lobsters and egg bearing females can be released in the sea with good prospect of surviving, whereas, the survival rate of released Danish trawled lobster is probably close to zero, as they suffer damage after spending several hours compressed in the trawl.

Statistics are limited but the tendency is convincing. Lobster potting in the Danish waters could be at least as profitable as trawling.  So, how to convince everybody to give lobster potting a try? Same procedure – bottom up! The Danish Association for a Living Sea will work on the data over the winter, present them in a sailing exhibition and visit a number of Danish harbors around lobster waters using the same vessel “Anton” as its base.  The association will approach fishermen, local politicians, general audience, tourists and press. The method consists in communicating locally in a very visible way and reach decision makers this way.

Danish Association for a Living Sea

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