Progress of research into effects of prawn fishing

Progress of project: Effects of prawn fishing in Natura 2000 areas. State of affairs February 2013.

In 2012, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Fish Product Board commissioned research into the effects of prawn fishing in the Natura 2000 areas. The aim of the research is to study the effects of prawn fishing on life on the seabed and to analyse the bycatch.

Life on the seabed

The research into the way that prawn fishing is affecting life on the seabed involves analysing numerous benthic samples and making statistical analyses. Samples of sediment collected using seabed plane (coarse fraction) is examined immediately onboard, but the box core samples (fine fraction) are studied later in the lab. This is a time-consuming business; each sample takes up to a day to examine and a total of 120 box core samples need to be studied.



The study of bycatch via the self-sampling programme ground to a halt during the winter months, when very little fishing takes place in the Natura2000 areas. The study of bycatch will resume once fishing recommences. The self-sampling programme is due to last two years and involves taking samples from a minimum of 200 trips and 400 hauls per year. We also want the samples to come from an even distribution of Natura 2000 areas. In 2012, 24 prawn ships helped with the self-sampling programme. These ships fish throughout the Wadden Sea and the North Sea coastal zone: 7 ships come from the eastern Wadden Sea, 7 from the central Wadden Sea, 7 from the western Wadden Sea and 3 from the south of the Netherlands.

Checks by observers

An observation programme was started in the north of the Netherlands (Groningen, Friesland and North-Holland) in September to check the self-sampling programme. Ministry of Economic Affairs ships inspect samples on board the ships working on the self-sampling programme approximately 4 times a month. The observation trips are carried out by three ships from the Wadden Unit: the Krukel from Lauwersoog, the Stormvogel from Harlingen and the Phoca from Texel/Den Oever.

Prawn fishing

Research into bycatch


Last January, there was a meeting with the supervisory committee (which consists of representatives from the sector, from the scientific world, the Ministry and NGOs) to discuss the initial results. A provisional report will be drawn up in the spring, explaining all the results up until now. These results will only be made public once we have finished all our analyses. Utmost caution is advised as we do not want provisional results to leak out and cause unnecessary havoc. In the meantime, MARIN, assisted by the General Inspection Service (AID) and radar technology, is also analysing data to establish whether fishermen really are avoiding the areas closed for fishing. Samples from these areas are being used in the research. The findings from this part of the study will be used to decide what needs to be done in the field in 2013.

An evaluation compiled during the course of 2013 will form the basis for a new round of permit allocations. Any results ready in time will be taken into account.