The North Sea sandeel fishery has a critical impact on harbour porpoises in the region as they gather in this area for mating and calving in the spring and summer and heavily rely on sandeels as a food source. The fishing of sandeels forces porpoises to seek out less nutritious prey with researchers citing less sandeels leading to lethal starvation and decreased survival of young. This ban will also benefit minke whales and white beaked dolphins who also rely on sandeels as a food source.
WDC has been pushing hard for a full closure of the sandeel fishery in the North Sea over the last two years, feeding into a government consultation by leading on the issue of impacts on this porpoise population.
This new ban will apply to all vessels of any nationality, and it will be effective from 26 March 2024, before the start of the next sandeel fishing season.
Sandeel populations have taken a hit due to industrial fishing and climate change. They play a vital role in the marine ecosystem and biodiversity, and are an important food source for many other species, including seabirds and fish.
Commercial fishing for sandeel is currently carried out entirely by European vessels with no fishing quota allocated to UK vessels since 2021.