The federal and state agriculture ministers have unanimously spoken out against a blanket ban on bottom trawl fishing. “We have to bring protection and use together – in a balanced and differentiated manner,” said Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir (Greens) after the end of the conference of agriculture ministers in Büsum, Schleswig-Holstein.

He is pleased that the department heads have backed him “to fight in Brussels against a blanket ban on trawling and thus for the German shrimp fishery,” said Özdemir. It’s not just about economic livelihoods, but also about tradition, tourism and home.

The EU Commission recently presented an action plan for more sustainable fishing. According to this, fishing with bottom trawls – i.e. nets that touch the seabed – should be prohibited in protected areas by 2030 at the latest. The first measures should therefore already be in place by the end of March 2024. On the other hand, there was great resistance on the North Sea coast.

disapproving reactions

The head of the WWF Wadden Sea office, Hans-Ulrich Rösner, criticized the AMK decision. “A fundamentally wrong signal” emanates from him: “Marine protection is only ok if it doesn’t take place on your own doorstep. However, Germany must not only work to protect the world’s oceans on the international stage, but must also take long-overdue measures on its own seize waters.”

This also includes making marine protected areas what they should be – protected zones, not economic zones. “Of course, shrimp fishing is part of the North Sea, but it can and must be more environmentally friendly and not everywhere.”

Farmers and fishermen have accompanied the Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting since Wednesday with a variety of protest actions – including a tractor rally to Büsum and a cutter demonstration – and rallies.

Special Conference on Livestock Husbandry

The ministers were not as unanimous everywhere as they were on this point. For example, there was initially no agreement on the controversial conversion of livestock farming. “But the federal and state governments have recognized the dramatic situation in many pig farms,” ​​said Schleswig-Holstein’s department head and chairman of the Conference of Agriculture Ministers (AMK), Werner Schwarz (CDU).

For this reason, the federal states devote a special session exclusively to this topic shortly after the Easter break, in order to prevent the risk of production being relocated abroad.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture wants a conversion towards fewer animals per stable. Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir (Greens) said that after a year of hard work there was an agreement at federal level. “Now it’s about everyone – non-partisan – to ensure future-proof animal husbandry.”

Özdemir’s country colleagues from Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein fear that animal farmers will give up due to impractical requirements and at the same time more food will be imported that is produced under lower animal welfare and environmental standards.

A total of 36 items were on the agenda of the three-day conference. In addition to the planned ban on bottom trawl nets and the restructuring of animal husbandry, the handling of wolves and geese, grazing and a possible reorientation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the EU were also discussed. The ministers did not always reach resolutions that satisfied everyone.