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Minister accepts bottom trawl damage

Thu, 10 Jun 2004

Minister accepts bottom trawl damage but fails to provide real solution

Auckland, June 10, 2004: Greenpeace today welcomed the Fisheries Minister's acknowledgement that bottom trawling damages deep sea life and that marine biodiversity needs to be protected. However a piece-meal approach to the biggest threat to deep sea life just won't work and anything less than a UN moratorium on high seas bottom trawling will allow the damage to continue.

The Minister has not stated how he plans to address this important issue. He alluded to talks between the New Zealand and Australian Governments to 'up the levels of biodiversity protection' (1). Greenpeace is concerned that this is in reference to ongoing discussions between the two countries to develop joint conservation measures such as a Marine Protected Area in international waters in the Tasman Sea.

"While a Marine Protected Area in the Tasman Sea would be an important step to conserve marine life, it does not protect the high seas from its biggest threat to deep sea life - bottom trawling. However a marine protected area in a small part of the high seas or similar measures is like trying to fix a broken leg with a bandaid. This is a global problem and we need global action to address it."

"Scientists say that bottom trawling is now the single biggest threat to deep sea life. Greenpeace welcomes the Minister's comments today and is glad that the New Zealand Government accepts that bottom trawling is damaging deep sea life," said oceans campaigner, Vanessa Atkinson.

"This is a welcome addition to the debate which has so far been dominated by the fishing industry's 'deny everything' approach when it comes to impacts of bottom trawling on the diverse marine life of the deep sea. There's more than just fish in the deep sea, like 2,000 year old coral forests, sharks and giant squid," continued Ms Atkinson.

Once thought to be void of life, scientists now estimate between 500,000 to 100,000,000 species live in the deep sea. Many of these species are situated around underwater features like seamounts, ridges, plateaus and continental slopes.

Over 1000 scientists from 69 countries, including New Zealand, called for a United Nations moratorium in an urgent statement earlier this year. Greenpeace and an international coalition of environmental groups are supporting this call.

A moratorium is not a ban. A moratorium is a "time out" for the deep sea to give time to assess what is there and the sustainability of high seas bottom fishing and for legally binding management regimes to be established.

"A moratorium is temporary by definition. Once we know how to look after the deep sea, fishing could resume if it has been proved to be sustainable for both the fish targeted and the rest of the deep sea life," continued Ms Atkinson.

A New Zealand Government delegation is currently at a United Nations meeting in New York where a moratorium is being discussed (2).

Notes (1) New Zealand Herald, Thursday 10 June, "Industry Rejects Call for Ban on Bottom-Trawling", page C3. (2) The 5th meeting of the United Nations Informal Consultation on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS) is being held at the United Nations in New York. It ends on Friday 11th June. The focus of the meeting is on the conservation and management of the biological diversity of the seabed in areas beyond national jurisdiction.


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