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Public opinion sought on Benthic Protection Areas

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton is consulting on an industry proposal to ban bottom trawling from almost a third of New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

"In February 2006, I announced a bold initiative which I had received from the fishing industry about bottom trawling in New Zealand waters," Mr Anderton said.

"I believe this would be an unprecedented win-win for conservationists and fishermen. But before the government investigates it fully, we want to hear what the New Zealand public think of the proposal."

The industry proposal would close some 1.2 million square kilometres of the EEZ to bottom trawling and dredging. When added to New Zealand deepwater areas already closed, the proposed closures would mean that 42 percent of seamounts in New Zealand waters will be protected. This would be the largest single marine protection measure ever proposed within a nation state's EEZ.

The proposed closures have been based around the Ministry for the Environment's Marine Environment Classification system.

"The proposed areas have had little or no bottom trawling or dredging in the past, so we expect their ecosystems and habitats are relatively intact," Mr Anderton said.

"This proposal will allow substantial progress in achieving the Government's marine biodiversity protection objectives in the offshore and demonstrates the fishing industry's enterprise and responsibility in being willing to take pro-active steps to preserve the capacity of the marine environment from which they harvest."

The period for public consultation runs until June 9, when submissions will be analysed and an advice paper prepared for Cabinet.

"Depending on the advice, we would hope to have Cabinet decisions by October 1 this year and Regulations enacted before the end of 2006," Mr Anderton said.

Copies of the Initial Position Paper for public consultation and other relevant material are available from the Ministry of Fisheries' website:

http://www.fish.govt.nz/sustainability/bpa/index.html

ENDS

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