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Bottom Trawling Ban Would Devestate Industry

26 August 2004

Media Release

Bottom Trawling Ban would Devastate New Zealand Fishing Industry

A ban on bottom trawling in New Zealand waters would be devastating for the New Zealand fishing industry and would be most unlikely to win any international support from other nations, says Dave Sharp, Chairman of the representative Seafood Industry Council of New Zealand.

Flanked by the leaders of the main fishing companies that generate some $1.2 billion in export revenues and support over 26,000 jobs, Mr Sharp said the New Zealand seafood industry was "ready, willing and able" to play its part in forging a regional agreement to ensure fisheries habitats were managed sustainably and renewably.

"Unilateral action by the New Zealand government to impose a ban on bottom trawling for New Zealand high seas fishers would simply sideline them," Mr Sharp said. "Other nations would refuse to recognise a moratorium and continue to enter those fisheries. It would be devastating for the New Zealand industry that makes such an important contribution to the national and regional economies through providing employment, export dollars - and food."

Bottom trawling is by far the most common fishing method used to catch fin fish in New Zealand and in the rest of the world's fisheries. New technology has enabled fish to be targeted selectively and trawl gear controlled so that today's bottom trawling is indeed a sustainable practice.

The industry estimates that over $800 million of the $1.2 billion earned from seafood exports in 2003 were from species caught by trawling and related methods, which is on par with global fisheries statistics. Most of the 26,000 jobs that the seafood industry has created in New Zealand relate directly or indirectly to trawl fishing.

"I know that the environmental bloc would have the public believe that giant trawlers are damaging the seabed indiscriminately. But modern fishing techniques and technology as well as comprehensive management and control regimes ensure that fishing and its effects are environmentally sustainable," Mr Sharp said.

Bottom trawling is confined to very small areas within New Zealand's vast exclusive economic zone. More than 65 per cent of the New Zealand EEZ is not fished by trawling, either because areas are closed to trawling, or the water is too deep, or there are no fish present of commercial interest.

The remaining 35 per cent available for trawling is only fished where the sea bottom terrain is suitable and where fish can be located. Fishing therefore takes place only in selected areas and generally in similar areas each year which means that new areas are not being continually fished.

Mr Sharp said the industry believed that a bottom trawling ban was not an answer to protecting the fisheries but the solution lay with regional and international co-operation between fishing nations, supported by effective quota management systems like those operating in New Zealand and continuous innovation in sustainable practices.

"We are a pragmatic industry and one that is determined to work co-operatively with government, other fishing nations, conservationists and international forums to ensure we manage any effects of bottom trawling on fisheries habitats," Mr Sharp said.

"You can't produce or harvest food without some change to the environment. What we can do is to look at how, as an industry and a responsible steward of the seas, we can manage the ocean's resources to be sustainable and renewable. We must continue to provide employment, income, food for the world and export revenues for the country," he said. "It's a question of best practice to ensure the best balance of interests."

The SeaFIC Chairman said the industry has supported Government efforts over many years to negotiate effective regional management among all the fishing nations with an interest in fisheries resources in the Southern Oceans and Tasman Sea.

"We need all the fishing nations that fish in the high seas around New Zealand and Australia to agree that similar rigorous management measures to those that apply to fishing in New Zealand and Australian waters should be applied in the high seas," he said. The effective implementation of the Quota Management System has resulted in recovery of formerly overfished snapper, scallop and rock lobster stocks and New Zealand is regarded internationally as a leader in sustainable management of its fisheries. "It's this kind of co-operation and sharing of responsibility between regulators and industry participants on a national and international level that we are pushing as a way of finding a solution to bottom trawling effects not banning bottom trawling and irreparably damaging a key New Zealand renewable industry and resource by relegating it to the sidelines," he said.

Background Information

Bottom Trawling in the New Zealand EEZ and in the High Seas

NZ EEZ

- Bottom trawling is by far the most common fishing method used to catch fin fish in the New Zealand EEZ and throughout the world.

- New technology has enabled fish to be targeted selectively and trawl gear controlled so that today's bottom trawling is indeed a sustainable practice.

- With the exception of bottom long lining and purse seining, trawling is the only method used by New Zealand fishing vessel operators.

- Not only fish are caught by trawling. Scallops, oysters and scampi are harvested using dredging or trawling.

- SeaFIC estimates that over $800 million of the $1.2 billion earned from seafood exports in 2003 was from species caught by trawling and related bottom methods. This is similar to global fisheries statistics. Globally, about 70% of fish and shellfish production comes from trawl fishing.

- Most of the 26,000 jobs that the seafood industry has created in New Zealand relate directly or indirectly to trawl fishing. The only exceptions are for people employed in aquaculture, longline fishing and rock lobster and paua harvesting.

- New Zealand fisheries are managed sustainably through the Quota Management System. This ensures that catch limits are set to ensure long term sustainability and provide strong incentives for quota holders to fish responsibly.

- More than 65% of the New Zealand EEZ is not fished by trawling, either because areas are closed to trawling, or the water is too deep, or there are no fish present of commercial interest.

- The remaining 35% available for trawling is only fished where the sea bottom terrain is suitable and where fish can be located. Fishing therefore takes place only in selected areas. Fishers generally fish in similar areas each year which means that new areas are not being continually damaged.


High Seas

- Outside the EEZ in the high seas, trawling for deep water species can only take place in a very small area of suitable terrain at depths between 800 to 1200 metres.

- Globally and in New Zealand, most bottom trawl fishing takes place on a flat or undulating sea bottom generally covered in muddy sediment. This is generally not a suitable habitat for corals. Trawling in these areas will come into contact with and disturb the bottom sediments. However the ecosystem impact is minimal.

- Trawling for species like orange roughy takes place on undersea slopes, mounds and seamounts. The terrain is sometimes rocky and can be a habitat for cold water corals. New Zealand fishers have modified their fishing techniques to minimise contact with slope surfaces, in order to avoid damaging their fishing gear.

- Trawl gear cannot be deployed on slopes of greater than 20 degrees. Much of the slope and seamount terrain cannot be fished as it is too steep, thus avoiding any chance of contact with corals. More of the slopes and seamount terrain is not fished than is fished.

- Species like orange roughy commonly aggregate in plumes above slopes. Fishers will bring fishing gear down on such aggregations in a broad arc, and thus minimise the period where gear might come into contact with the sea floor.

- It is a complete misrepresentation of orange roughy trawling to assert that it is conducted by rolling and crushing trawl gear indiscriminately across the sea floor.

Chairman's Key Messages to Press Briefing August 26 2004

Introduction We've invited you to meet us today to hear first hand the New Zealand fishing industry's position on bottom trawling and our proposals to ensure that our country's unique ocean habitats continue to be sustainable from both an environmental - and economic - point of view.

For those who don't know me, I'm Dave Sharp, Chairman of SeaFIC, the industry representative body.

With me today are my director colleagues who are also the CEOs of the major commercial fishing companies and representatives of the industry.

We've just had a Board Meeting of the Seafood Industry Council, or SeaFIC for short, and much of our time has been focused on looking at the issue of bottom trawling.

It's topical - not just for conservationists - but also for fishers whose livelihoods depend on the continuation of a thriving industry that will not be cut off through threats of a unilateral ban on bottom trawling in New Zealand waters.

We believe that bans are not the answer to protecting the fisheries; regional co-operation with other fishing nations is, supported by our own highly effective quota management system and industry commitment to continuous innovation in sustainable practices.

Co-operation We are a pragmatic industry and one that is determined to work co-operatively with government, other fishing nations, conservationists and international forums to find the best way to manage on a sustainable basis the relationship between bottom trawling and fisheries habitats.

You can't produce or harvest food without some change to the environment.

What we can do is look at how, as an industry and a responsible steward of the seas, we can best manage the ocean resource so it can be sustainable and renewable.

We must continue to provide employment, income, food for the world and export revenues for the country.

It is a question of best practice to ensure the best balance of interests.

Bowing to environmentalists calls to ban bottom trawling in New Zealand will not solve the problem.

All that will happen is that New Zealand will be taken out of the equation and left to watch on the sidelines. Vessels from Australia, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine, European Union, Norway, South Africa, Cook Islands and Belize will still be operating in these waters.

Trawling I want to give you a bit of an industry perspective of the importance of trawling, which is by far the most common fishing method used to catch fin fish in the world and in New Zealand's EEZ, so you can see its importance to the industry here.

With the exception of bottom long lining and purse seining, trawling is the only method used by New Zealand fishing vessel operators.

Not only fish are caught by trawling, but scallops, oysters and scampi are harvested using dredging or trawling.

We estimate that over $800 million of the $1.2 billion earned from seafood exports in 2003 were from species caught by trawling and related methods.

This is similar to global fisheries statistics. Globally, about 70% of fish and shellfish production comes from trawl fishing.

Most of the 26,000 jobs that the seafood industry has created in New Zealand relate directly or indirectly to trawl fishing. The only exceptions are for people employed in aquaculture, longline fishing and rock lobster and paua harvesting.

So you can see that the issue is very important for this industry and for the country.

Sustainable Management As representatives of the industry, of course we have a vested interest in protecting the financial commitments we've made, but we also have to protect the jobs that have been created in regional New Zealand from Bluff to Ahipara and the environment that sustains us.

New Zealand fisheries are managed sustainably through the Quota Management System. This ensures that catch limits are set to ensure long term sustainability and provide strong incentives for quota holders to fish responsibly. When the Quota Management System was introduced in the mid 1980s many fishing nations thought it was experimental, but now it is recognised internationally as a highly successful fisheries management regime. A key reason for the success is that the system involves shared responsibility between the industry and government to ensure sustainability of the ocean environment and our fisheries into the future. The effective implementation of the Quota Management System (QMS) has resulted in recovery of formerly overfished snapper, scallop and rock lobster stocks and New Zealand is regarded internationally as a leader in sustainable management of its fisheries. It's this kind of co-operation between regulators and industry participants on a national and international level that we are pushing as a way of finding a solution to bottom trawling effects. Extent of bottom trawling I know that the environmental bloc would have you believe that giant trawlers are damaging the seabed indiscriminately. But modern fishing techniques and technology, as well as comprehensive management and control regimes ensure that fishing and its effects are environmentally sustainable.

Bottom trawling is confined to very small areas within New Zealand's vast exclusive economic zone.

The fact is that more than 65% of the New Zealand EEZ is not fished by trawling, either because areas are closed to trawling, or the water is too deep, or there are no fish present of commercial interest.

The remaining 35% available for trawling is only fished where the sea bottom terrain is suitable and where fish can be located. Fishing therefore takes place only in selected areas and generally in similar areas each year which means that new areas are not being continually fished.

Outside the EEZ in the high seas, trawling for deep water species can only take place in a very small area of suitable terrain at depths between 800 to 1200 metres.

Bottom Trawling in Action Globally and in New Zealand, most bottom trawl fishing takes place on a flat or undulating sea bottom generally covered in muddy sediment.

And despite what some profess, this terrain is generally not a suitable habitat for corals.

Trawling in these areas will come into contact with and disturb the bottom sediments. However, the impact to the ecosystem is minimal.

Trawling for species like orange roughy takes place on undersea slopes, mounds and seamounts. The terrain is sometimes rocky and can be a habitat for cold water corals, but New Zealand fishers have modified their fishing techniques to minimise contact with slope surfaces, and also to avoid damaging their fishing gear.

It is a complete misrepresentation of orange roughy trawling to assert that it is conducted by rolling and crushing trawl gear indiscriminately across the sea floor.

Species like orange roughy commonly aggregate in plumes above slopes. Fishers will bring fishing gear down on such aggregations in a broad arc, and thus minimise the period where gear might come into contact with the sea floor.

Trawl gear cannot be deployed on slopes of greater than 20 degrees. Much of the deepwater slope and sea mount terrain cannot be fished as it is too steep, thus avoiding any chance of contact with corals. That means that more of the deepwater slopes and seamount terrain is not fished than is fished.

Impact of a moratorium A moratorium on bottom trawling would be devastating for the New Zealand fishing industry - just as it would be for other fishing industries.

It is most unlikely to be supported by other fishing nations, particularly those where the contribution to feeding the nation and providing employment and export revenues is viewed as critical to national wellbeing.

A moratorium on trawling in the high seas is not a remedy or a practical form of governance over fisheries resources.

Unilateral action by the New Zealand government to impose a ban on bottom trawling for New Zealand would simply sideline New Zealand fishers.

Other nations would refuse to recognise a moratorium and continue to enter those fisheries.

New Zealand needs to work with other fishing nations to develop regional management arrangements that are effective in producing sustainable management of high seas marine resources.

We need all the fishing nations that fish in the high seas around New Zealand and Australia to agree that similar rigorous management measures to those that apply to fishing in New Zealand and Australian waters should be applied in the high seas.

Only a handful of countries in the world have fisheries management systems that are as effective and rigorous as those that apply in New Zealand and Australia.

The New Zealand seafood industry has supported Government efforts over many years to negotiate effective regional management among all the fishing nations with an interest in fisheries resources in the Southern Oceans and Tasman Sea.

We are ready, willing and able to play our part in finding a practical solution.

ENDS

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