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High Seas Bottom Trawl Controls Welcomed

Wellington – Wednesday 24 April 2008

High Seas Bottom Trawl Controls Welcomed

ECO welcomed the Government’s putting measures in place to implement the Interim Measures agreed for bottom fishing on the High Seas in the South Pacific.

ECO spokesperson, Barry Weeber, said while the measures only partially implement the interim arrangements they were a major step forward.

Mr Weeber said the requirement to have an observer onboard all vessels was an essential requirement of the interim measures (Interim Measure 9).

“Without Ministry of Fisheries observers on board it will be impossible to assess the catch of vulnerable species, like cold water corals and sponges.”

Mr Weeber said that these cold water corals can be hundreds of years old and are easily destroyed by bottom fishing nets being dragged over the sea floor to catch orange roughy

The measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems were necessary to meet the requirements of a UN General Assembly resolution which was passed in December 2006.

Mr Weeber said the UNGA resolution required all parties involved in negotiating new fisheries agreements to pass measures to prevent significant adverse effects on vulnerable marine ecosystems.

“The history of orange roughy fishing in New Zealand (and internationally) has been to severely over-fish populations and take corrective too late.” Mr Weeber said it has yet to be determined whether the orange roughy fisheries on the high seas are sustainable and this is one part of the interim measures that New Zealand is yet to implement.

Mr Weeber said the other key requirement missing in the interim measures was the need to assess the impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystem. “We are aware the fishing industry are opposing this requirement but it is an explicit part of the interim measures and the UN General Assembly requirements”

Mr Weeber said ECO understands the Ministry of Fisheries intends to implement these requirements as soon as possible.

New Zealand is the major deepwater fisher in the South Pacific making up nearly 90 percent of the effort for orange roughy and deepwater oreos. Australia is the other major player with additional catch from a Chinese vessels flagged to Belize.

Mr Weeber said all countries involved in the South Pacific process have committed to meeting the requirements of the interim measures. “At the recent meeting in Ecuador in March, Australia and Belize committed themselves to implementing these measures.”

ECO will be working with other members of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition to ensure all countries implement the South Pacific Interim measures.

Note:

1. ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 62 groups with a concern for the environment. ECO is a member of Deep Sea Conservation Conservation Coalition which has promoted measures to protect high seas from bottom fishing (see .

2. The Interim Measures for bottom fishing in the high seas in the South Pacific were adopted in April 2007 in Renaca Chile by the meeting developing a South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Agreement. Since that meeting there have been two further meetings which have further fleshed out the scientific requirements. The key requirements of the measures are: 1. Limit bottom fishing effort or catch in the Area to existing levels [defined as average annual levels over the period 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2006] in terms of the number of fishing vessels and other parameters that reflect the level of catch, fishing effort, and fishing capacity. 2. Not expand bottom fishing activities into new regions of the Area where such fishing is not currently occurring.

6. In respect of areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems are known to occur or are likely to occur based on the best available scientific information, close such areas to bottom fishing unless…. conservation and management measures have been established to prevent significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems and the long-term sustainability of deep sea fish stocks… 6.7. Require that vessels flying their flag cease bottom fishing activities within five (5) nautical miles of any site in the Area where, in the course of fishing operations, evidence of vulnerable marine ecosystems is encountered….

9. Appoint observers to each vessel flying their flag and undertaking or proposing to undertake bottom trawling activities in the Area and ensure an appropriate level of observer coverage on vessels flying their flag and undertaking other bottom fishing activities in the Area. 9.

10. To strengthen its control over bottom fishing vessels flying its flag, each participant will ensure that all such vessels operating in the Area be equipped with an operational vessel monitoring system no later then 31 December 2007, or earlier if so decided by the flag State. Assessment of bottom fishing

11. Assess, on the basis of the best available scientific information, whether individual bottom fishing activities would have significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems, and to ensure that if it is assessed that these activities would have significant adverse impacts, they are managed to prevent such impacts, or not authorized to proceed.

3. The South Pacific measures defined vulnerable marine ecosystems as including includes “seamounts, hydrothermal vents, cold water corals and sponge fields”.

4. The measures follow on from a requirement of a 2006 UN General Assembly Resolution 61/105 (A/61/L.30) on Sustainable Fisheries adopted on 8 December 2006 which: OP80. Calls upon States to take action immediately, individually and through regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements, and consistent with the precautionary approach and ecosystem approaches, to sustainably manage fish stocks and protect vulnerable marine ecosystems, including seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold water corals, from destructive fishing practices, recognizing the immense importance and value of deep sea ecosystems and the biodiversity they contain; OP83. Calls upon regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements with the competence to regulate bottom fisheries to adopt and implement measures, in accordance with the precautionary approach, ecosystem approaches and international law, for their respective regulatory areas as a matter of priority, but not later than December 31, 2008: A. To assess, on the basis of the best available scientific information, whether individual bottom fishing activities would have significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems, and to ensure that if it is assessed that these activities would have significant adverse impacts, they are managed to prevent such impacts, or not authorized to proceed. A.B. To identify vulnerable marine ecosystems and determine whether bottom fishing activities would cause significant adverse impacts to such ecosystems and the long-term sustainability of deep sea fish stocks, inter alia by improving scientific research and data collection and sharing, and through new and exploratory fisheries; A.C. In respect of areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems, including seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold water corals, are known to occur or are likely to occur based on the best available scientific information, to close such areas to bottom fishing and ensure that such activities do not proceed unless it has established conservation and management measures to prevent significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems; and A.D. To require members of the regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements to require vessels flying their flag to cease bottom fishing activities in areas where, in the course of fishing operations, vulnerable marine ecosystems are encountered, and to report the encounter so that appropriate measures can be adopted in respect of the relevant site; OP85. Calls upon those States participating in negotiations to establish a regional fisheries management organization or arrangement competent to regulate bottom fisheries to expedite such negotiations and, by no later than December 31, 2007, to adopt and implement interim measures consistent with paragraph 83 and make these measures publicly available;

5. “Seamounts” have been defined by the South Pacific Science Working Group as any feature with vertical elevation of at least 100m. This is also the definition used in the Ministry of Fisheries draft Strategy to Address the Impacts of Fishing on Seamounts, 1999 and by various reports by NIWA.

6. Orange roughy are long-lived and have a maximum age of 120-130 years. They do not mature until they are around 30 years old. They are caught using the controversial method of bottom trawling which also destroys any corals, sponges and other three dimensional sea life on the bottom. Some of these coral removed have been aged at over 500 years old.

Barry Weeber www.eco.org.nz

ENDS


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