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Massive Closures to Protect Bio-diversity Proposed

Massive Closures to Protect Bio-diversity Proposed by New Zealand Seafood Industry

14 February 2006

The seafood industry announced today a proposal to close off Benthic Protection Areas (BPAs) to bottom trawl fishing, said the managing director of Sanford Limited, Eric Barratt. Mr Barratt was speaking on behalf of the New Zealand companies involved in deepwater bottom trawling. “This is by far the largest total closure to bottom trawl fishing within an EEZ ever undertaken in the world.”

“The industry has decided to take the initiative by proposing the closure of areas that equate to 31 percent of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to bottom trawling to protect the bio-diversity of the benthic environment. We are proposing the establishment of 30 BPAs,” Mr Barratt said today. The proposed BPAs are geographically representative of all deepwater marine environment classifications.

The proposed areas are huge, Mr Barratt says. “To put that in perspective, the total areas to be closed are more than four times the land mass of New Zealand, and significantly larger than the EEZs of the British Isles, Argentina, Spain or Iceland.

“This proposal demonstrates industry recognition of the need to protect the bio-diversity of a largely pristine and untouched benthic environment. This is a bold move which we hope the government can implement very quickly,” he said.

The fishing industry is a major contributor to the New Zealand economy, in terms of food production and generating economic wealth. This announcement will give the public of New Zealand certainty that important benthic areas will be protected and will enable the industry to continue in a sustainable way, Mr Barratt said.

“The closures will definitely limit the opportunities for exploratory fishing, but it is worth the price. Our aim is to protect previously untouched areas to ensure that they will remain pristine for generations to come. While that means that potential income from that area has been lost, fishing can continue where it currently occurs, but the public will have confidence that important bio-diversity in benthic environment areas will be protected from ever being impacted by bottom trawling – the value of that is almost impossible to determine.

“Importantly, this proposal provides areas for benthic protection in international waters outside the EEZ and we recommend that government consider these proposals in the establishment of a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation for the South Pacific.

“The Minister’s strong support for this initiative is welcomed and we pledge our support to working with the government to ensure implementation of the proposal.”

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