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Letters reveal Talley effort to prevent seafloor protection

Forest & Bird is releasing letters showing Talley’s fishing co, along with other bottom trawling companies, lobbied against seabed protection in the South Pacific.

This comes on the eve of Talley’s appearance in court on charges of illegal bottom trawling.

“New Zealand fishing companies have been fishing for orange roughy, claiming it’s sustainable, and threatening legal action when other countries try to limit the permanent damage they are causing,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.

“It’s no more sustainable than smashing up kauri forest to catch kiwi.”

The letters, which took months to be released to Forest & Bird under the Official Information Act, show persistent efforts by the High Seas Group, of which Talley’s is a member, to block a new rule limiting the destructive impact of bottom trawling in the South Pacific.

In the letters, the High Seas Group threatens legal action against the Government if they didn’t get their way.

The letters were sent to Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash, and NZ First Ministers Winston Peters, and Shane Jones.

“The fishing industry spends big bucks on ads insisting we should trust them, but at the very same time, they were trying to prevent protection of the South Pacific’s most fragile ocean floor ecosystems by threatening our Government.”

The High Seas Group of companies was opposing a ‘move on’ rule (pdf, pg 29), which would require bottom trawlers to stop fishing in an area and move on, if they pull up too many corals, sponges, and other vulnerable and long-lived ocean life.



The Group failed in its bid to block the rule after other South Pacific countries refused to cave to its demands, and the move-on rule came into effect in April.

“New Zealand bottom trawlers, including Talley’s, fought against an extremely modest rule which allows a maximum coral by-catch of 250 kg. It is hard to see how they have any interest in sustainable fishing, when they fight so hard to continue an activity known to completely trash our ocean floor,” says Mr Hague.

The move on limits are: 250 kg of stony corals, 50 kg of sponges, 60 kg of soft corals, 40 kg of anemones, 15 kg of sea fans, and 5 kg of black corals.

The rule has been implemented by the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO), and covers a huge area of the high seas from South Australia and North of Papua New Guinea in the west across to South America in the East and from the equator to near Antarctica.

A recent report by NIWA revealed the seafloor does not recover from sustained bottom trawling.

The letters, obtained under the Official Information Act, are available to download.

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