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High Seas Destruction of CITES Protected Species

High Seas Destruction of CITES Protected Species

Tasman Sea, 12 June 2004 - As United Nations delegates (1) stand on the brink of deciding what recommendations are to go to the UN General Assembly on how to protect high seas life, the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior has documented evidence of the destruction of a CITES listed species through deep sea bottom trawling.

The endangered black coral, a CITES listed species for over 20 years (2), was dragged up from the floor of the Tasman Sea last night by one of several bottom-trawling vessels operating on the high seas. Black coral is also protected in adjacent New Zealand waters.

"This is yet further evidence that an immediate moratorium on high seas bottom trawling is needed to protect the unique biodiversity of the deep sea", said campaigner Carmen Gravatt from the Rainbow Warrior. "We are hoping the New Zealand delegation at the UN will take the opportunity to show some leadership on this as the meeting finishes their discussions in New York today".

The Rainbow Warrior crew have documented other interesting species of the deep being discarded as bycatch including deep sea kina, ghost sharks, and starfish. They also have evidence that will settle arguments from the fishing industry about bottom trawling.

"Representatives of the bottom trawl industry continue to claim that bottom trawl nets don't touch the sea bottom - we have solid evidence this is not true. Yesterday we filmed fishermen wrestling with a large rock that was brought up in a trawl net on board a New Zealand bottom trawl vessel. Unless there are mid-water rocks floating around down there, bottom trawlers - including New Zealand fishers - do hit the seafloor damaging the unique and vulnerable life of the deep sea."

This week, the Minister of Fisheries David Benson-Pope also acknowledged that bottom trawling did "considerable damage" to deep sea life.

In March this year the Ministry of Fisheries seized New Zealand bottom trawler, the Seamount Explorer, for allegedly having black coral in their possession (3). Up to 42 species of black coral occur in New Zealand waters. Most of these species remain unnamed and are found in just a few locations - a reminder of still how little is known about the deep sea.

See today's IMAGES of black coral, deep sea kina and ghost shark bycatch at: http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/photos/12June04/

More information on BOTTOM TRAWLING available at: http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/deepsea

Daily UPDATES from the Rainbow Warrior crew are published via satellite link from the Rainbow Warrior to: http://weblog.greenpeace.org/deepsea

Notes to editor:

(1) 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 today. The focus of the meeting is on the conservation and management of the biological diversity of the seabed in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

(2) The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) offers important regulatory protection as it is the foremost international treaty with competency for managing international trade in species under pressure. Black coral is listed as an endangered species under Appendix II, the second highest level of protection. This is reserved for species for which trade must be controlled to avoid use incompatible with their survival. This is the same level of international protection given to Mahogany.

(3) see: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/businessstorydisplay.cfm?storyID=3554655&thesection=business&thesubsection=fishing&thesecondsubsection=general

GREENPEACE AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND http://www.greenpeace.org.nz

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