Fish Fraud and Illegal Fishing in Denmark: errors, lies and falsifications.

 Experts urge Danish authorities to reopen cases of illegally registered fishing vessels

Copenhagen, Denmark – July 5, 2024A Danish Fisheries Agency report has unveiled significant levels of mismanagement and illegal activities within the Danish fishing industry, prompting experts to call for immediate review and action.

Following extensive research by TV 2, a prominent Danish television station with a reputation for investigative journalism, it has been revealed that numerous fishing vessels, particularly mussel vessels in the Limfjord (northern Denmark), have been operating with illegally large engines. The Fisheries Agency has admitted to several administrative errors, including retroactively legalizing these engines by altering the interpretation of existing regulations without proper legal authority.

Key Findings from the DFA report:

  • The Fisheries Agency illegally changed the interpretation of rules, allowing previously illegal engines to operate.
  • The Danish Parliament was misled regarding engine power regulations, being provided with incorrect information.
  • The Agency dropped cases against three fishers caught with excessive engine power during inspections.
  • All inspections were halted based on erroneous doubts about the inspection methods.
  • At least 11 out of 30 mussel vessels in the Limfjord were found to have engines exceeding the legal limit of 130 kilowatts.

Broader Implications: The issue of illegally large engines extends beyond the Limfjord, impacting other regulated areas, notably Area 22 of the Baltic Sea (a cod spawning area), Rødspættekassen (Plaice Box) in the North Sea, and the 3-mile limit along the entire Danish coast. These regions have stringent engine power limits to protect the marine environment and ensure sustainable fishing practices which have been flouted.

Expert Opinions: Legal experts, including Professor Frederik Waage from the University of Southern Denmark, assert that the Agency must reopen these cases, as the previous retroactive legalization was unlawful. Professor Rasmus Grønved Nielsen from the University of Copenhagen concurs, emphasizing the need for transparency and adherence to legal standards.

Environmental Impact: The unchecked use of overpowered engines has far reaching implications for the environment, potentially exacerbating the worrying situation in the Limfjord, including severe oxygen depletion. Experts from Aarhus University and the University of Copenhagen have highlighted the negative impact of mussel fishing on the marine ecosystem.

Ministerial Response: Minister for Fisheries Jacob Jensen has acknowledged the administrative failures and pledged to enhance control measures and adjust the regulatory framework. However, details on specific actions to address the illegal vessels remain unclear.

Industry Reaction: The Danish Fishermen’s Association (DFPO) advocates for repealing the law prohibiting derating and for a new system of continuous engine power monitoring to ensure compliance with regulations, suggesting that this could prevent future violations.

Next Steps: The Fisheries Agency is under pressure to act promptly to rectify past mistakes and prevent future environmental harm. The Minister has also announced an investigation into the ecological consequences of inadequate control measures.

∗ ∗ ∗

Contact: For further information, please contact:

Claudia Orlandini
Senior Communications and Outreach Officer