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Activists Scrap Ship at Brandenburg Gate to Protest Overfishing

Torsten Knorr sinks a buzz saw into the rusty propeller of what looks like an 80-foot-long fishing trawler stranded in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

The trawler is a caoutchouc-made dummy installed today by Greenpeace ahead of World Oceans Day tomorrow. Knorr and his fellow Greenpeace activists plan to scrap it to protest overfishing in the European Union. They’re calling on German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner to work to reduce Europe’s fleet of fishing vessels ahead of a meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council next week in Luxembourg.

“The trawler fleet in the EU is three times too big to fish sustainably,” Thilo Maack, a marine biologist at Greenpeace, said in an interview. “Our oceans and fish stock are in a historic crisis. German ships are fishing in waters as far as West Africa. Ms. Aigner needs to act.”

Maria Damanaki, the European Union’s maritime and fisheries commissioner, has proposed a reform of EU fishing policy that aims to tackle overfishing with measures including banning discards, the practice of throwing unwanted fish overboard. The Commission says 82 percent of Mediterranean stocks and 63 percent of Atlantic stocks are overfished.

Germany seeks “an ambitious reform” of the EU’s fishing policies, said Holger Eichele, a spokesman for Aigner’s Agriculture Ministry. Aigner and her 26 fellow EU ministers are to discuss the proposals at next week’s council meeting.

“We need a modern fishery management system that avoids unwanted bycatch as much as possible and outlaws discards,” Eichele said today by e-mail. The reform should apply “the same stringent rules” to European vessels outside EU waters, for example in West Africa, he said.

The European maritime industry, taking into account energy and resource exploitation, tourism, shipping and fishing, has a production value of about 450 billion euros ($565 billion), Damanaki said in October.

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