Symbolbild Welle in Blau

Exclusion of mobile bottom-contact fishing in marine protected areas of the German EEZ in the North Sea


Photo of fish trawler in an harbour

Fish trawler © Kai Hoppe private

Bottom trawls are often used in so-called mobile bottom-contact fishing (Mobile grundberührende Fischerei = MGF). The main effects on marine ecosystems are caused by the otter boards, which are used to keep the net horizontally open. Otter boards plow through the sediment and thereby have a negative impact on the sediments and organisms on the sea floor.

Therefore, this fishing method will be excluded in parts of the German and European MPAs in the next years. The negotiations on the exclusion of MGF are currently taking place within the framework of the European common fisheries policy at EU level and in consultation with neighboring countries.

Our Research

Photo of a beam trawl at the water surface, trawled by a research vessel

Beam trawl © Hermann Neumann Thünen Institute

The MGF North Sea research projects as well as its sister project MGF Baltic Sea offers the unique opportunity to investigate how benthic habitats and organisms develop after the exclusion of MGF in the future.

For this purpose, the current state of the areas has to be examined and documented as a reference. This allows to investigate how communities, seabed morphology, biogeochemistry of the marine sediments and exchange processes between sediment and water column develop without further human disturbances.

Such influences on MPAs and marine ecosystems have so far been understudied and the results provide an important basis for future management of the protected areas in the North and Baltic Sea.

Logo MGF-North Sea

The scientific work planned in the projects follows a modern, interdisciplinary approach that includes all components of the ecosystem in order to assess the consequences of an MGF exclusion. The data form the basis for a future monitoring in the areas to assess status changes and consider countermeasures or further protective measures if necessary.

Project term: 01.03.2020 – 28.02.2023 (second term in preparation)
Coordination: Prof. Dr. Karen H. Wiltshire (
Management: Dr. Sabine Horn (