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Greens applaud Govt bottom trawling speech at UN

Greens applaud Govt bottom trawling speech at UN

The Greens are heartened by a change in Government attitude towards deep sea bottom trawling.

“The Government has signalled at the United Nations that it wants to save hundreds of irreplaceable, rare marine species in danger of being wiped out. I urge it to take the action necessary to fulfil that promise.”

On the floor of the United Nations General Assembly in New York a few hours ago, New Zealand’s Permanent Representative Don Mackay called for “urgent” action on bottom trawling, saying: “New Zealand is concerned that adverse impacts of fishing activities on vulnerable marine ecosystems continue to occur, and, more worryingly, that reactions by states to address the problem are too often slow and inadequate. New Zealand considers that these issues require urgent interim action.”

Ms Fitzsimons congratulated the Government for its stronger than expected rhetoric. “When I asked about the issue in Parliament in September, Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope refused to support a temporary moratorium on bottom trawling, and seemed to back fishing industry claims that its nets do not drag the bottom of the sea. However, Mr Mackay’s comments at the UN seem to indicate a hardening of resolve that I find enormously encouraging.”

However, Ms Fitzsimons said she was disappointed that the eventual UN resolution under debate did not advocate a moratorium.

“We have real concerns about the setting up of a working group to investigate restrictions on bottom trawling, if it is not accompanied by a moratorium. This would certainly encourage the fishing industry to destroy fragile areas now in order to avoid any restrictions on fishing in the future.

The Government’s diplomatic moves in New York came after a tireless campaign for a moratorium led by the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, an international alliance of conservation organizations, including Greenpeace, the national coalition ECO, and Forest and Bird.

“The hardening of the Government’s stance shows that it has taken notice of a strong public environmental campaign. I congratulate the NGOs who have worked hard to bring this issue to public and government attention.”

Deep sea trawling is a huge threat to New Zealand’s biodiversity, Ms Fitzsimons said, and the Greens would continue to work for urgent action.

“The fishing industry asserts that its nets do not drag on the bottom of the sea but have never explained why they catch so many rocks suspended in the water. In reality, everything in the path of these steel-weighted nets is obliterated. Whole communities of marine organisms on ancient coral reefs, many of them still undiscovered, are unlikely to ever recover as the method wipes out their habitat. Once they’re gone, they won’t be coming back.”

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