World March 2, 2016 | 4:15 pm

‘Sustainable’ fish from major consumer brands linked to Arctic destruction

Amsterdam.- Fishing fleets that supply major consumerbrands are using giant trawlers in an area known as the ‘Arctic Galapagos’,according to a new Greenpeace investigation.

The research implicates the suppliers of well-known brandsBirdseye, Findus and Iglo, as well as fish restaurants across Europe. Many ofthese brands proudly display their commitment to sustainability on theirpackaging.

Researchers used satellite data and field work to track anincreasing number of trawlers operating in the Northern Barents Sea, an‘ecologically significant’ area according to scientists. The region, whichincludes the Svalbard archipelago, is home to vulnerable species including thepolar bear, bowhead whale and Greenland shark.

Commenting on the report, Greenpeace campaigner FridaBengtsson said: “Climate change is opening up whole areas of the Arctic for thevery first time. Some companies see this as a business opportunity, but wethink it’s a chance to protect a fragile ecosystem before it’s too late. Wecannot destroy a marine environment that we don’t even understand.”

“Some of the world’s biggest seafood brands are unwittinglybuying cod from this vulnerable area. We’re asking them to get tough with theirsuppliers to ensure the northern part of the Barents Sea is off limits to giantfishing trawlers.”

Bottom trawling is a highly destructive fishing method,which is already responsible for damaging up to half of Norway’s cold watercorals reefs. At least 70% of all the Atlantic cod that ends up in supermarketsaround the world is from the Barents Sea. Greenpeace says that any companybuying cod from the Barents Sea risks having their supply chain tainted withArctic destruction.

Marine conservation biologist Professor Callum Roberts wasshown an early copy of the report. He said:

"Bottom trawling is one of the most destructivemethods of fishing. Over the last 200 years it has converted once rich andcomplex seabed habitats to endless expanses of shifting sands and mud. Areas ofthe Arctic protected by sea ice represent one of the last pristine refuges fromtrawling and need urgent protection to prevent them from suffering the samefate."

Greenpeace is calling on fishing companies to stop fishingin the northern Barents Sea and the waters around Svalbard, and for retailers,food brands and processors to no longer use suppliers that engage indestructive fishing in these waters. Greenpeace is also calling on theNorwegian government to create a ‘Marine Protected Area’ in the northern BarentsSea and the waters around Svalbard.

Frida Bengtsson continued: “Norway takes great pride in its environmental credentials, but is doingnothing to stop an ecological crime unfolding on its own doorstep. TheNorwegian government should put as much effort into protecting this part of theBarents Sea as it invests in protecting rainforests in other countries.”

Greenpeace has turned its attention to the fishing industryafter running a high profile campaign against oil drilling in the Arctic ocean.Last year the environmental group celebrated after Shell abandoned a $6bnproject in Alaska, following a series of mishaps and widespread publicopposition.

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