North Atlantic Fisheries Crisis A Warning For Pacific: Greenpeace
Auckland 20 September 2005: As major fishing nations sit down around the table in Estonia, today to further divide up the dwindling fish stocks of the once rich waters of the Northwest Atlantic, Greenpeace warned that the same could happen to Pacific fisheries.
The talks take place against the backdrop of a Canadian government-sponsored report that recommends the scrapping of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) altogether. (1) The Canadian Report says that NAFO’s problems are too big to fix and calls for the establishment of a new fisheries management organisation to replace it.
Meanwhile the New Zealand, Australian and Chilean Governments are beginning talks on a South West Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO).
“As the first meeting for a Pacific RMFO nears, New Zealand must learn lessons from the NAFO disaster”, said Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace International co-ordinator of seamounts campaign. “The NAFO experience is a dire warning not to go down the same track of ignoring the overall ocean ecology and only focussing on divvying up target fish species, otherwise we’ll see more of the same ecological collapses from overfishing and destructive fishing gear”.
In 2004 the United Nations asked NAFO and other Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) to urgently address the destruction of deep sea biodiversity from destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling. NAFO has done nothing in response to this. Dr Joe Borg, the EU Fisheries Commissioner recently confirmed the EU’s support for RFMOs to take responsibility despite acknowledging “the undeniable detrimental effect of bottom trawling on vulnerable deep sea ecosystems”(2).
NAFO is one of the older and more established RFMOs and is held up as a model internationally. But currently, 4 of the 6 straddling deep-sea fish stocks under its care are under moratoria due to overfishing. 60% of the world’s high seas bottom trawl catch is taken from this area. The Canadian Report confirms the impact of the move from hook and line fishing to trawling as key to the decline of the groundfish stocks in the region. Scientists agree that bottom trawling is the most destructive fishing method to deep-sea life
The Greenpeace ship, /Esperanza/ visited the NAFO area in August after Greenpeace released its own report on mismanagement in the NAFO area. The Report called for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling until deep-sea biodiversity has been assessed, identified, and where necessary, protected from destructive fishing methods like bottom trawling. The /Esperanza/ documented the activities of more than 15 high seas bottom trawlers, many of which have broken NAFO rules. Greenpeace has sent an open letter to all NAFO members documenting its findings and showing how things need to change.
“NAFO has forfeited the right to continue to mismanage this piece of the global commons,’ said McDiarmid, who led the ship tour to the NAFO Area and is a co-author of the Greenpeace study. “A moratorium on high seas bottom trawling is the only possible response. This would allow the time to assess and identify the important areas of biodiversity that need protection and to develop a management regime that takes account of impacts on the whole ecosystem, not just the fish they want to catch.”
(1) The final report is available at:
Dr. Borgs Speech to the European Parliament Fisheries
Committee, Brussels Sept 14, 2005. ENDS
(2) Dr. Borgs Speech to the European Parliament Fisheries Committee, Brussels Sept 14, 2005.