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Call For UN Action On Bottom Trawling

Wed, 6 Oct 2004

New Global Coalition Calls For UN Action On Bottom Trawling

Wellington, Wednesday 6 October: The New Zealand Government took the lead on driftnet fishing and should step forward and do the same with high seas bottom trawling, environmentalists said today.

The New Zealand contingent of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) comprising ECO, WWF-New Zealand, Forest and Bird and Greenpeace placed an advertisement in Wellington newspapers today (see at: http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/pdf/DomPostBTad.pdf) calling for the Labour government to lead a UN moratorium on high seas bottom trawling - just as it did in 1989 with driftnet fishing.

The groups placed the ads as their international counterparts launched the DSCC in London and as UN discussions on ocean issues continue this week. The DSCC says that resolutions tabled for negotiation by the UN General Assembly fell a long way short of the urgent protection needed.

Cath Wallace, spokesperson of the Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand (ECO) said: "Scientific evidence shows that bottom trawling on underwater mountains called seamounts destroys more biodiversity and adds more threats of extinction to more species than the driftnets - or Walls of Death - ever did. Bottom trawling is as destructive of ancient sea-floor communities as crushing a forest in order to catch the birds. In harvesting, the habitat is destroyed."

Chris Howe of WWF-New Zealand said: "There is a free-for-all approach on high seas areas. A moratorium will allow time for identification of areas that need permanent protection, provide an opportunity for the UN to develop appropriate legal instruments and allow fishers to find less destructive ways of fishing".

Barry Weeber of Forest and Bird said: "Scientists have been calling for urgent action to protect these deep sea treasures for more than two years. It's time New Zealand stepped in and took a lead over this important international environmental issue".

Only a handful of countries have deep sea bottom trawl fleets operating in international waters, the most prolific amongst these being Spain, other European countries and Russia. New Zealand is one of only 11 countries that took approximately 95% of the reported high seas bottom trawl catch in 2001 and have been promoting and exporting this technology around the world.

Greenpeace boat to expose bottom trawlers in Atlantic Greenpeace announced today in London that it will send its ship, The Esperanza, out onto the international waters of the North Atlantic to document the immediate threat posed by bottom trawlers.

Greenpeace New Zealand campaigner Vanessa Atkinson will be on board: "In June this year, the Rainbow Warrior found New Zealand bottom trawlers on international waters of the Tasman Sea catching small amounts of orange roughy along with large proportions of deep sea creatures as 'bycatch' which were dumped overboard," she said.

"The fragile and unique life of the deep sea around the world is being devastated by bottom trawl nets. The deep sea is the biggest pool of undiscovered life in the ocean, yet bottom trawling is devastating these areas, driving species to extinction. A United Nations moratorium on high seas bottom trawling is the only option to ensure that these precious areas survive long enough to be studied and protected for the long term," concluded Ms Atkinson.

The DSCC represents millions of members around the world and is supported in its concerns by members of both the scientific and fishing communities.

ENDS

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